29 February 2008

Clinton v. Obama On Health Care

The Washington Post has a nice comparison of the health care plans of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, the two leading Democratic candidates for the Presidential nomination in 2008. Among most people whom I have heard express an opinion on a particular issue that distinguishes the candidates, this has been the most commonly expressed one and the most heart felt concern. Most Democrats whom I have heard express a strong opinion on this prefer Clinton's plan.

The health care plans proposed by Senators Clinton and Obama are similar in many ways, but they differ in several important respects. The Clinton plan "mandates" health insurance for everyone. The Obama plan requires that all children have insurance, and subsidizes health care for other Americans who are presently uninsured. Clinton estimates that her plan will cost in the region of $110 billion a year; Obama has put a $50 to $65 billion price tag on his proposals.

[N]either the Obama plan, nor the Clinton plan, guarantees "universal coverage" for all Americans, although they both aspire to this goal.

[T]he Clinton plan [is] . . . a "universal coverage" plan, in contrast to the Obama plan, which he terms a "universal access" plan. But he also acknowledges that the Clinton plan will not include everybody. "Any system that does not have a single payer will not have 100 per cent coverage," he told me, when I reached him after the Las Vegas debate. "But you can come very close."

By "single payer," Gruber means a national health insurance system along the lines of Britain or Canada, which do provide universal coverage. The system proposed by Clinton is more analagous to the government-subsidized private insurance system in the Netherlands, where roughly one and a half per cent of the population is estimated to fall through the cracks.

The Clinton plan is also comparable to the health care plan introduced in Massachusetts by Governor Mitt Romney (who is opposed to extending the experiment to the rest of the United States.) It provides various incentives and penalties for uninsured residents of Massachusetts to subscribe to a health plan. Known as "The Connector," the Massachusetts plan has so so far enrolled 200,000 out of 400,000 uninsured residents. The big unknown is how many of the remainder will sign up once health insurance becomes "mandatory" at the end of this year. Some Massachussets residents have already been exempted from the "mandatory" health insurance requirement. . . .

[T]he Obama plan will not cover all the uninsured, at least to begin with. But he claims that Obama will do a better job than Clinton in reducing the cost of health care premiums. He says that Obama might consider a mandate at a later stage, if his present plan does not achieve its goal of universal coverage. . . .

The Urban Institute, a Washington-based think tank, gamed out various different models for health care reform in Massachusetts several years ago. According to John Holohan, one of the authors of the study, "we estimated that we would probably get half the uninsured without a mandate." Extrapolated to the whole country, that would leave 22 million out of 45 million people still uninsured. Since the Obama plan provides for mandatory insurance for children, the total number of uninsured would probably come down to around 15 million.

There are 188,400,000 adults under the age of 65 in the United States. If 1.5% weren't covered under the Clinton plan, as her advisor suggests in the article quoted above, the number of uinsured would be on the order of 3 million. Thus, based upon the guestimate of the Urban Institute, the Obama plan would cover about 30 milllion more Americans, while the Clinton plan would cover about 42 million more Americans.

But, the distinction depends upon how many adults will not get health insurance when they have access to a plan and receive significant premium subsidies. Will 15 million out of 30 million adults who lack health insurance now opt out? To a great extent, the number who opt out is a devil in the details that depends upon how rich the subsidy is, and how easy it is to make it through the paperwork necessary to get a plan with a subsidy.

One place to look is at the fact that 15%-25% of families eligible for the Earned Income Tax Credit (about 3.5-7 million households) fail to claim it. The average household that claims the EITC received about $1,766 in 2002, and a fair estimate would recognize that those will below average EITC amounts are less likely to claim it than those with above average EITC amounts. Also, it is worth noting that EITC beneficiaries are among the least bureacratically astute taxpayers.

The dollar value of a health insurance subsidy is likely to be greater for most eligible individuals than the EITC amount due to those who fail to claim it. And, I suspect that the average uninsured individual may be somewhat more bureacratically able than the average EITC beneficiary, although there is significant overlap as both groups involve large numbers of working poor families.

Another place to look is at SCHIP and Medicaid enrollment. The experience of those programs is that marketing significantly impacts enrollment even when the benefit is similar in different places:

In 1999, 72 percent of Medicaid-eligible children and 45 percent of SCHIP-eligible children were participating in these programs. Medicaid and SCHIP participation rates varied significantly by state and some states have been able to achieve very high coverage rates for eligible children.

Even free health care under the Medicaid program is hard to give away, unless an effort is made to inform people about the option and get them enrolled.

Either way, a new Democratic president means a significant improvement in access to health care for tens of millions of Americans, including every child. In contrast, President George W. Bush vetoed even a modest expansion of the income limitations to qualify for SCHIP, a program that allows moderate income families to buy health insurance at a subsidized rate for their children.

What Are The U.S. Navy's Post-Cold War Missions?

The U.S. Navy is still working out what its purpose should be in a post-Cold War world. With a new President around the corner, it is an appropriate time took look at what the Navy should and should not do, with an eye towards any restructuring of our forces that seems necessary or appropriate as a result.

Given the long lead time involved in Naval ship building, this is a decision that a new Secretary of Defense needs to attend to very early in a new administration, notwithstanding the fact that the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars are more urgent priorites.

Conventional Naval Warfare

One role of the U.S. Navy is to be part of a response to hostile action by foreign naval powers. The dominant threat in this regard is the threat posed by North Korean and Chinese forces (possibly with the assistance of complicity of the Russian Pacific fleet) in the Pacific Theater.

The main scenarios of concern are an attack upon our ally Taiwan by China, an attack upon South Korea by China or North Korea, an attack upon Japan by China or North Korea, and an attack upon the Phillipines by China, in approximately that order. Another kind of attack which could occur in a variety of contexts, would be a military effort by some of all of these potentially threatening forces to interdict shipping to our allies or in the region generally.

The North Korean Scenario

The threats posses in a North Korea scenario turn out to be quite similar in character to those posed by smaller potentially hostile forces in Pakistan, Iran, Indonesia and Vietnam, and is worth exploring a some length.

North Korea has about 22 diesel powered Romeo Type 031 Class submarines of about 1,830 tons each, which carry up to eight torpedos. These don't approach state of the art, their crews do not have the training of modern Western navies, and they are designed for coastal opearations (although they have a range of up to 9,000 miles at a tepid speed of 9 knots cruising speed). North Korea also has about 26 Sang-o Class submarines of its own manufacture which are about 370 tons each, have about a 1,500 mile range, and carry two torpedos.

While these submarines are hardly state of the art, a small number of cannily operated submarines with hostile intent can inflict great damage on surface ships, take a great deal of effort to locate and destroy one by one, and have a terror effect that can essentially end commercial shipping in a large geographic area until all of the submarines can be definitively proven to be located and eliminated with a single attack or credible threat of doing so. An active diesel attack submarine fleet can also keep major U.S. combatants like aircraft carriers, amphibious ships and various classes of cruise missile carrying surface and submarine combatants much further from shore than they would otherwise operate.

The difficulty of the task has been illustrated by multiple recent occassions where North Korean or Chinese Submarines have been first discovered by Japanese or American naval forces well within a range when a ship destroying torpedo could have been launched.

In addition to the submarines, North Korea has about 9 frigates (the smallest class of blue sea warship), 43 missile boats and 115 torpedo boats.

The frigates can be instantly located with radar and satellite imagery, do not have particularly advanced anti-aircraft and anti-missile systems, and cannot put distance between convention U.S. combatants and themselves by retreating into shallow coastal regions and estuaries where rock outcroppings and other land features can be used for cover from attack. American forces have ample carrier based aircraft with anti-ship weapons, ship based anti-ship cruise missiles, attack submarines with torpedos, and ship based torpedos to make short work of these frigates long before visual contact can be made and likely before the frigates even have any firm idea of where the American forces are located. In blue sea combat frigates are destroyed tragets in the first hours of the war. Their use to the North Korean military is primarily their ability to interdict civilian and pirate ships, and small armed boats, that are relatively from shore.

The missile and torpedo boats are a class of ships largely absent from the Navy of the United States and many of its allies, which are common in the Naval Forces of North Korea, China, Vietnam and Iran, to name just a few. These are small craft by naval standards, generally under 500 tons with crews of fifteen people or less that are are not intended to go far from the coast of the operating country. These craft are easier to tuck away in mangrove forests or crude shelter where they can go undetected until first deployed in a conflict. They have little in the way of electronics or defense weapons or armor. But, their weapons are very potent and can do a great deal of damage to an American or allied force ship if they get through the defenses that these larger ships have in place.

An incident earlier this year in the Persian Gulf involving an Iranian boat that got close to an American ship, illustrated that it is harder to stay aware of these smaller boats, and while one at a time they are helpless, a swarm of attacking small craft with potent weapons could potentially overwhelm U.S. ships which are designed with defense against a smaller number of more powerful ships in mind.

In addition to coastal submarines with torpedos, and numerous missile and torpedo boats, a nation like North Korea can also threaten ships that come nearby with coastal ground based anti-ship missiles, and with with fighter aircraft. The North Korean air force is reputed to have about 510 fighter aircraft, about 300 intended for air to air combat, and another 210 or so intended for air to ground bombing.

As is the case with the Air Forces of all but a handful of potential military adversaries to the United States, North Korea's aircraft are in many cases in poor repair, have poorly trained crews, and are aircraft designs that are far out of date and grossly inferior to the fighter aircraft in the American arsenal and that of its allies. But, they could be deployed on suicide missions, and anything short of a 100% success rate in intercepting incoming North Korean aircraft by a U.S. allied naval force will cost the U.S. some of its ships and many of the hundreds of sailors aboard each one.

Existing U.S. carrier based aircraft, in sufficient numbers, ground based fighter aircraft, and anti-aircraft weapons are U.S. surface combatants are more than adequate to handle the anti-aircraft task in an assembled mass, with minimal casualties. And, U.S. submarines are more or less invulnerable to the air forces of a nation like North Korea.

Throughly dispatching an enemy air force, like its submarine fleet, its major surface combatants and the lion's share of its missile and torpedo boats, are all tasks that must be completed before an area can be declared safe for seabasing of troops, sea based support of ground troops, or ordinary shipping. The U.S. is currently weakest in its ability to conduct anti-submarine warfare and its ability to handle swarms of vulnerable small craft or ground source missiles with a potent ability to cause damage.

The U.S. also also comparatively weak in its ability to clear sea mines in a quick and efficient manner to make sea lanes safe for sea basing and shipping.

A Chinese Scenario

Perhaps the single great worry for the U.S. Navy, placed second on this list only because it is atypical of other convention naval warfare encounters that the U.S. Navy could face is a Chinese invasion of Taiwan, something that it routinely threatens to carry out and has tailored its military to a significant degree to be capable of carrying out. The existence of an attack would be obvious from Chinese rhetoric, radar, early warning systems, Taiwanese patrols, intelligence sources and satellite imagery. A surprise attack would be essentially impossible. But, a rapidly assembled Chinese force could leave insufficient time to marshal U.S. naval forces from outside the Pacific theater to participate in the opening hours and days of the conflict.

In this scenario, it is entirely possible that South Korea and Japan would refuse to interfere with their own forces out of concern for incurring the wrath of neighbor and trade partner China, leaving the United States to go it along along with the full force of the Taiwanese military, at least for the critical first few days.

China's fleet of submarines is similar in number of ships to, but more capable than, the North Korean submarine fleet, suggesting that the anti-submarine warfare challenge would be greater. China also has several times as many aircraft as North Korea, including a reasonable share that are more competent. And, like American surface combatants, many of China's several dozen large surface combatants have cruise missile and anti-aircraft capabilities.

On balance, the Chinese Air Force and submarine fleet could probably be defeated by combined Taiwanese and United States forces. But, that isn't the point. The point is that the Chinese Air Force and submarine fleet could keep the U.S. surface fleet a considerable distance from the action for a significant length of time, probably days, at least, during which China could try to move a large flotilla of amphibious forces to Taiwain.

In such a situation, the U.S. would have to rely on (i) anti-ship missles from distant U.S. and allied surface ships, (ii) cruise missiles based on U.S. bombers, (iii) its nuclear attack submarines, (iv) carrier based aircraft, and (v) ground based aircraft (bombers, fighters, tankers and electronic warfare craft) stationed in Japan, and to a lesser degree in South Korea and Guam and Hawaii. The torpedos and naval guns of U.S. Naval ships would be essentially useless because U.S. surface combatants would be forced to maintain too great a distance from the fighting for their own safety. Tawain would rely on its own naval fleet, which would not be at liberty to flee to a distance as U.S. surface combatants would, and its own ground based aircraft.

These military resources would need to first destroy invading amphibous ships and Chinese aircraft (to protect Taiwan itself), then Chinese surface combatants (to prevent counterattacks), and then proceed to try to mop up Chinese small craft and Chinese submarines disrupting shipping (as well perhaps as North Korean submarines assisting Chiense forces). A full fledged attack could involve over a thousand Chinese and Chinese allied aircraft, and a couple hundred ships, boats and submarines.

The U.S./Taiwanese strategy relies upon anti-ship missiles, attack submarines and combat with aircraft inflicting enough damage upon an invading Chinese force in the initial hours and days of the conflict to allow Taiwanese ground forces, relieved hours or days later by rapidly deployed U.S. Marines and paratroopers, to survive the missiles and bombs that make it through from China to Taiwan, and rout any Chinese ground troops that manage to slip through what would be the biggest convention naval battle in world history since World War II.

The extent to which the seas in the area would be safe for shipping after the fact depend upon the speed with which U.S. and Taiwanese Navy anti-submarine warfare efforts could subdue their quarry, an extremely difficult task in the case of the more modern submarines in the Chinese fleet.

The Russian Scenario

The only notable exception to naval conflicts along the pattern of the North Korean one sketched out above is the potential of widespread naval war with Russia. It is the only potentially hostile navy in the world that rivals that of the U.S. in sophistication and size. Its blue sea navy, particularly its modern attack submarines have the potential to wreck havoc on U.S. naval forces worldwide and worldwide shipping. It also has a ballistic missile submarine force (as does China although China's is much smaller).

Any threat of this kind would be one that the U.S. would handle not alone, but in concert with allies from essentially every modern Navy on the planet, including the Navies of the United Kingdom, Germany, Italy, Spain and France.

I won't explore that scenario at length in this post.

Suffice it to say that the U.S. Navy was designed specifically with that threat in mind, that in the meantime that the Russian Navy has eroded in its capabilities to a greater degree than the U.S. Navy has, and that this is a threat that we will be able to meet for decades so long as we do not wholesale scrap our current fleet prematurely, even if we make few meaningful additions to that fleet.

Also, under current political circumstances, it is hard to see a plausible scenario in which a naval conflict with Russia would arise. Russia's current military priorities seem to be oriented towards reasserting itself with its immediate neighbors with whom it has land borders. One could imagine, perhaps, an effort by Russia to blockade Estonia or Latvia or Lithuania or Poland in the Baltic Sea, but even in that situation, given Russia's nuclear arsenal, conventional warfare wouldn't be a first choice for resolving an indicident like that one. Likewise, while one could imagine a naval standoff in the Pacific Ocean between the Russian fleet and the Japanese fleet over one of the disputed Northern Japanese islands off the Russian coast, escalation into conventional naval warfare also seems unlikely given the risk of nuclear escalation.


Protecting shipping against seabased criminals on the high seas has been and remains one of the purposes of the U.S. Navy. For almost a century, pirates seemed more like an artifact of history than a modern concern. But, the past couple of decades has seen a resurgence of piracy, particularly off the Coast of Somolia, and in heavily travelled trade routes in and around Indonesia.

Sea Basing

The other purpose of the U.S. Navy is to serve as a base for U.S. troops, aircraft and release efforts in situations where the U.S. and its allies control the airspace and have eliminated whatever marginal naval forces may be in place. For example, very litle of sub-Saharan Africa has any meaningful naval force or an airforce that couldn't be dispatched very quickly by U.S. and allied force. With a handful of notable exceptions, the same is true of South America and most of Southeast Asia.

Thus, however vulnerale the U.S. surface fleet is in theory to certain kinds of threats like submarine warfare, aircraft swarms, missile swarms, and small craft swarms, once those threats are eliminated, the ocean is a place where the U.S. can set up a large military base on demand to serve just about any ground based military operation.

Sea based forces are then available to blockade a nation, to supply and relieve and provide fire support for ground troops, to serve as an air force, or to be a center for relief or evacuation operations.

Strategic Activities

The U.S. has fourteen nuclear submarines loaded with multiple warhead nuclear missiles vastly more potent than the ones used in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. This is arguably the most potent part of the American nuclear triad (land based intercontental ballistic missiles and airbased nuclear bombs are the other two). This is because nuclear submarines which can remain undetected below the seas for months at a time are far less vunerable to pre-emptive measures to destroy them than land based nuclear missile bases or aircraft capable of carrying nuclear weapons.

Also, nuclear missile submarines begin their missions to deliver missiles to a target much closer to those targets than land based missiles or aircraft carrying missiles. As a result, there is far less time for any nation that has some sort of missile defense system or deteurrent to effectively defend against this threat or to retaliate with its own missiles.

The U.S. Navy has also been lobbying hard for a role in a national missile defense system designed to intercept small numbers of nuclear missiles from rogue nations near the point of launch, and also to use the same anti-missile weapons to disable opponent's satellites. The Navy has established credibility in this effort by having a much better success rate in its trials of experimental versions of these weapons, something probably mostly attributable to the Navy's advanced and mature Aegis missile/aircraft defense systems. The Navy has proposed a small fleet of 25,000 ton nuclear powered cruisers, that would operate away from the carrier and amphibious assault groups that absorb almost all of the Navy's other surface combatants, to fulfill this role.

In contrast, the Air Force's efforts to develop anti-missile defense systems have fared poorly in testing compared to the Navy's efforts, despite the fact that the tests its doing appear to be easier because its efforts have not made as much progress, or to be far off into the future, such as Boeign 747 based laser guns, because a great deal of research and development will be required to make the planned defensive systems operational.

No one has developed any system that could provide meaningful defense against a full fledge mutual assured destroy nuclear attack from a nation like Russia. But, efforts to provide some sort of defense from a small number of nuclear missiles for city sized areas, or for isolated missile launches from anticipated launch sites (neither of which exists in any form now) seems technologically feasible.

Special Forces Support

The Navy has a role, which it shares with all of the other forces, in developing means of delivering small units of special forces troops to deployments. Four of its Ohio class submarines have been adapted for this purpose. So too can its third Seawolf nuclear attack submarine and all of its Virginia class nuclear attack submarines (currently three).

The Navy also has small craft adapted for that purpose and can deploy helicopters from almost all of its aircraft carriers, surface combatants and amphibious force ships, and Osprey tilt rotor craft from most of the larger ones.

28 February 2008

What Is The U.S. Navy Building?

What warships does the U.S. Navy have in the works right now?

In rough order of design maturity:

1. There are 3 Arleigh Burke DDG-51 class destroyers under construction and 7 more are planned.

2. There is 1 Wasp class LHD-1 class amphibious assault ship under construction (November 2008 delivery planned) and no more are planned.

3. There are 3 Virginia SSN-774 class nuclear attack submarines under construction and 5 more are planned.

4. There is 1 Nimitz CVN-68 class aircraft carrier (with some transitional design elements) under construction (2008 or 2009 delivery) and no more are planned.

5. There are 3 San Antonio LPD-17 class amphibious ships under construction and 4 more are planned.

6. There are 2 Littoral Combat Ships (Freedom LCS-1 class) of different designs under construction and about 50 or more are planned. One design is expected to be chosen after the first two ships are built.

7. There are 2 Zumwalt DDG-1000 class destroyers of different designs under construction, and up to 5 more are planned. Any planned ships would be of a single chosen design, but it is unclear if any of the planned ship not currently under construction will ever be built, with the Navy quite likely to move on to a CG(X) design based upon the winner of the two DDG-1000 class designs.

8. There is 1 Ford CVN-21 class aircraft carrier in the early stages of construction (entering service in 2015) and 2 more are planned.

9. There is 1 LHA(R) (aka LHX) class amphibious assault ship in the detailed design/long lead time component construction phase and up to 10 more are planned with an anticipated entry into service date of 2013.

10. There are two designs for the next generation cruiser, i.e. CG(X) for the U.S. Navy (not competing models, but two designs which would both be purchased for different missions, one for carrier group escort similar to the DDG-1000 and the other a 25,000 ship designed for ballistic missile defense with nuclear power) under serious consideration at this time.

There ships are described here along with a description of the current fleet.

All of the ships not currently under construction, the LHA(R) and the CG(X) could be cancelled by the next President with relative ease as a part of an overall defense plan. The Ford could also be cancelled but at a much higher political cost.

What naval aircraft does the U.S. Navy have in the works right now?

The U.S. Navy is also developing the P-8 MMA patrol aircraft and two variants of the development stage F-35 fighter aircraft, the STVOL F-35B model and the F-35C carrier based model. The Navy continues to build F-18s for aircraft carriers. It is investigating both a drone helicopter (the RQ-8 Fire scout) and further out a fixed wing, carrier based combat drone.

These aircraft are described here along with a description of current naval aviation resources.

The P-8 MMA is at too advanced a stage to make cancelling it a sensible option for the next President.

The F-35C is still at an early enough stage that this variant could be cancelled by the next President in lieu of further development of the F-18 and additional purchases of the F-35B. The F-35B would be much harder to cancel as many international partners in the F-35 program want the F-35B variant to replace their existing Harrier AV-8B aircraft on their existing and planned aircraft carriers. The Marines also currently plan to purchase only the F-35B and neither the F-35A Air Force version or the F-35C carrier based version would be good substitutes for it.

The two drone models could also be cancelled at this point, although the RQ-8 in particular has important roles in many naval plans and is at an advanced stage of development.

Incarceration Rates

[T]he prison population in Britain has risen by 60 per cent since 1995. In Germany it has been more or less stable during this period, while in Canada it has fallen by 11 per cent. New Zealand just outstrips Britain, with 68 per cent growth since 1995, while even the US lags behind with 42 per cent.

But it will be a long time before Britain catches up with the US in terms of the imprisonment rate: the US imprisons 750 people per 100,000, as against 149 in England and Wales and 136 in Scotland. Still, within Europe, our imprisonment rate is behind only former eastern bloc countries and, curiously, Luxembourg. The only west European country that comes close is Spain, which imprisons 146 per 100,000. By comparison, Germany imprisons 93 per 100,000, Turkey 91, France 85 and Italy 67.

From here.

The Russian Federation, the runner up to the United States, incarcerated 628 per 100,000. Belarus, in third place, incarcerates 426 per 100,000. The U.S. also has higher incarceration rates than either Iran or South Africa. The U.S. incarcerates more people in absolute number of prisoners than China, which has about 1.5 million people incarcerated, but about four times as many people as the United States.

The Pew Center on the States provides more details on the U.S. incarceration rate in a new report. Maine, the state with the lowest incarceration rate in the nation, still has an incarceration rate of 273 per 100,000. Louisiana, with the highest rate, incarcerates 1,138 per 100,000 people.

By race, incarceration rates in the United States are:

White 408 per 100,000
Hispanic 1,042 per 100,000
Black 2,439 per 100,000

The incarceration rate in the United States is highest for black males from age 20-34, which is 11,111 per 100,000, but that number isn't strictly comparable to the other numbers above which all include both genders and all age groups, despite the fact that men aged 20-34 have among the highest crime rates for all ethnicities and countries. Still, to have one in nine people in any demographic incarcerated is remarkable.

U.S. incarceration rates have increased dramatically over the last twenty years.

Are Shareholder Rights Irrelevant?

The law review article “Antidirector Rights Index” from La Porta et al.’s “Law and Finance” (1998) established an index based upon the presence or absence of six different legal rules to indicate how strongly the rights of shareholders were protected. The index was used to illustrate that stronger legal protections for shareholders were a good thing (citations omitted):

[There were] impressive positive correlations between the ADRI as independent variable and, as dependent variables, the size of equity markets and the dispersion of ownership in listed firms. They also found that the ADRI took significantly higher (i.e., investor-friendly) values in Common Law jurisdictions than in Civil Law jurisdictions, suggesting a causal relationship from law to financial outcomes. Subsequently, various researchers used the ADRI as a measure of legal shareholder protection in almost 100 published cross-country quantitative studies.

The rules measured were:

Preemptive rights to new issues: Equals one when the company law or commercial code grants shareholders the first opportunity to buy new issues of stock, and this right can be waived only by a shareholders’ vote; equals zero otherwise.

Cumulative voting or proportional representation: Equals one if the company law or commercial code allows shareholders to cast all their votes for one candidate standing for election to the board of directors (cumulative voting) or if the company law or commercial code allows a mechanism of proportional representation in the board by which minority interests may name a proportional number of directors to the board, and zero otherwise.

Shares not blocked before meeting: Equals one if the company law or commercial code does not allow firms to require that shareholders deposit their shares prior to a general shareholders meeting, thus preventing them from selling those shares for a number of days, and zero otherwise.

Proxy by mail allowed: Equals one if the company law or commercial code allows shareholders to mail their proxy vote to the firm, and zero otherwise.

Percentage of share capital to call an extraordinary shareholders’ meeting: The minimum percentage of ownership of share capital that entitles a shareholder to call for an extraordinary shareholders’ meeting … [For the ADRI, this component equals one if] the minimum percentage … is less than or equal to 10 percent (the sample median).

Oppressed minorities mechanism: Equals one if the company law or commercial code grants minority shareholders either a judicial venue to challenge the decisions of management or of the assembly or the right to step out of the company by requiring the company to purchase their shares when they object to certain fundamental changes, such as mergers, asset dispositions, and changes in the articles of incorporation. The variable equals zero otherwise. Minority shareholders are defined as those shareholders who own 10% of share capital or less.

The trouble is that when a new study tried to recalculate the index from scratch, the original data proved to be no longer accurate and the correlations between shareholder protections and financial market strength disappeared.

For 33 out of 46 countries, the ADRI value from LLSV (1998) has to be corrected. . . . The correlation between the accurate values and those from LLSV (1998) is only .53.

These large discrepancies have a number of important consequences:

First . . . accurate ADRI values are not distributed with significant differences between Common and Civil Law countries. . . . This challenges any causal interpretation of empirical results derived with the ADRI.

Second . . . the regression results . . . linking the ADRI to measures of stock market size and ownership dispersion cannot be replicated with accurate ADRI values. . . . the collapse of the results that inspired this entire line of research is at least remarkable.

I'm not terribly surprised by this result. Market development is path dependent. Success breeds success, while failure begets failure.

For example, Delaware is the pre-eminent state for the organization of publicly held companies, primarily because is was an attractive jurisdiction for this purpose when a first big wave of publicly held companies emerged, and has not since alienated companies that organized in Delaware. This is true despite the fact that the law of Delaware has been widely adopted elsewhere.

Since La Porta's original article made such a big splash, I suspect that many countries have reacted by adopting reforms. But, equity market size and dispersion of ownership do not change nearly so rapidly as corporate laws can be amended.

Also, La Porta's implication that these laws might cause larger and more dispersed equity markets probably had cause and effect wrong. In two key common law countries with large equity markets and dispersed ownership of stock, at least, i.e. the United States and United Kingdom, industrialization in the 18th-20th centuries was led largely by the private sector. Laws favorable to shareholders, in turn, arose because the growing body of small, but wealthy shareholders demanded them.

In contrast, in most of the rest of the world, industrialization was primarily a product of government owned companies (particularly in France and Italy and much of the Third World), sometimes in combination with insular cartels (for example, in the German, South Korean and Japanese case). In the absence of a large class of private shareholders, there was little pressure to protect shareholder's rights legislatively. In many of this countries, the primary determinant of the size and dispersion of the equity markets is the extent to which anti-trust and privatization programs have been adopted.

Religion in America

The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life has another truly outstanding report which provides detailed data on the religious affiliations of Americans today in the Continental United States (survey size of over 35,000 adults, detail to 0.3%, detail at a state or two state level available for larger categories).

The report accurately describes the major Christian subdivisions of Evangelical Protestant (26.3%), Mainline Protestant (18.1%), Historically Black (6.9%), Catholic (23.9%), Mormon (1.7%), Jehovah's Witnesses (0.7%), Orthodox (0.6%) and Other Christian (0.3%) and has a good methodology for making the distinctions in situations where answers are arguably ambiguous.

It also provides some of the best data on other religious affiliations: Jewish (1.7%), Buddhist (0.7%), Muslim (0.6%), Hindu (0.4%), Other World Religions (less than 0.3%), Other Faiths (1.2%, including Unitarian Universalists).

It is also exceptional in distinguishing within the growing ranks of the Unaffiliated (16.1%) between Atheists (1.6%), Agnositics (2.4%), the secular unaffiliated (6.3%), and the religious unaffiliated (5.8%). In addition 0.8% didn't know or refused to answer.

It has good demographic information on every category it surveys, and good, detailed information on conversion patterns from one category to another. The report also has clear charts and graphics accompanying it.

Very few of the report's findings are shocking news to anyone familiar with religious demographics (I field in which I was recently reminded that my mother was once professional employed as a demographer for a major Lutheran Church denomination in the 1960s).

The methodology Pew uses does an excellent job of distinguishing the impact of patterns of religious conversion during a person's life from impacts on church membership as a result of immigration.

For example, the decline in the ranks of Catholic church membership as a result of net conversions (conversions out mitigated by conversions in) reduced the church's membership by 24% (not percentage points), despite the fact that immigration has allowed the Catholic church to maintai steady overall membership numbers in the United States.

A net 18% of Baptists have converted away from that faith, but this is almost completely offset by the rise of Non-Denominational churches, most of which are evangelical as well, which have tripled their percentage share of the American public, and Pentecostal church affiliations (like the Assemblies of God) which have seen a 28% growth from conversions.

Data on income and faith is always interesting. The data below are abridged to show only the percentages of members of each faith tradition in the top and bottom income categories surveyed, and reordered based upon percentages in the lowest income category:

U.S. Religious Traditions: Less than $30,000 -- $100,000+
Historically Black Protestant Churches 47% -- 8%
Jehovah's Witnesses 42% -- 9%
Muslims 35% -- 16%
Evangelical Protestant Churches 34% -- 13%
National Total: 31% -- 18%
Catholics 31% -- 19%
Unaffiliated 29% -- 19%
Other Christians 29% -- 23%
Other Faiths 28% -- 18%
Mormons 26% -- 16%
Mainline Protestant Churches 25% -- 21%
Buddhists 25% -- 22%
Orthodox 20% -- 28%
Jews 14% -- 46%
Hindus 9% -- 43%

Go read it.

Is McCain Eligible To Be President? Yes.

The United State Constitution requires that anyone running for President be a "natural born citizen" (with a now spent exception for those who were citizens upon the birth of the United States).

Is McCain a natural born citizen, even though he was born in the U.S. Canal Zone? Yes.

As the New York Times notes:

Mr. McCain’s citizenship was established by statutes covering the offspring of Americans abroad and laws specific to the Canal Zone as Congress realized that Americans would be living and working in the area for extended periods.

Until the 14th Amendment was adopted after the Civil War (and long after the current United States Constitution was adopted in 1789) citizenship was a solely creature of statute, and the legacy of the statute under which he claimed citizenship at the time of his birth has a long history.

The "First Congress in 1790 passed a measure that did define children of citizens “born beyond the sea, or out of the limits of the United States to be natural born.” The phrase "natural born" was later removed from the statute, but the citizenship from birth of children of citizens has never waivered.

Universal birth right citizenship based solely upon location of birth is largely an American innovation that has not been widely adopted. Almost all European nations and Japan primarily base citizenship upon parental citizenship, and many Republicans, like Tom Tancredo, would like to abrogate the 14th Amendment and return to that standard. But, citizenship based upon location of birth has never been the sole basis of citizenship.

The "natural born" phrase in the constitution prohibits people who are naturalized citizens, like "the current governors of California and Michigan, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jennifer M. Granholm" from becoming President. I suspect that most Americans would agree that the "natural born" requirement is unnecessary and potentially removes highly qualified people from seeking the Presidency, but that is another debate.

If you are a citizen when you are born, it is hard to see how the natural born requirement should disqualify you from the Presidency. Citizenship itself isn't "natural." It is a legal construct. But, a law that says that you have the citizenship of your parents and of people born in a U.S. territory is no less natural than a law that says that people born in a U.S. state are U.S. citizens.

The Flobots

The Flobots are worth a listen. Their current hot single, "Handlebars" is both thoughtful and musically sophisticated compared to most of what one hears on pop radio these days. Oh yeah, and they hail from Boulder, Colorado, continuing a boom in Colorado based bands.

27 February 2008

Another Bad Lawyer

The Republican prosecuting attorney (Chuck Rosenthal) who pressed the Lawrence v. Texas case, which ultimately held that a criminal ban on homosexual sodomy between consenting adults was unconstitutional, in the name of public morality, turns out to be a racist, drug addicted, perverted liar who attempted to destroy evidence and had an affair with his secretary.

Who would have ever suspected that? Central casting would have been more original.

Save The Dog, Save The World

Rolo lives. That's what a judge decided this afternoon.

Assistant Presiding Judge Mike Graber ruled that Rolo the German shepherd can return to his owner, Laura Hagen, who has to continue intense training with Rolo and learn how to better control her dog.

A 90-day jail sentence against Hagen also will be suspended if the dog stays out of trouble for a year[.]

From The Rocky Mountain News.

The judge this afternoon gave Hagan a 90-day suspended jail sentence. He ordered her to have her fence inspected and to obtain $100,000 in liability insurance. She must maintain Rolo's dog-training sessions, and if she moves, her new home must be inspected to ensure it meets the fence conditions.

From The Denver Post.

I was appellate counsel in this case and spent a couple of months driven by the "Save The Dog, Save The World" mantra. Practicing law is basically about trying to achieve a client's goals, one case at a time. Who knew, when I started, that the case would be splashed across Denver's major daily newspapers and television news outlets as front page news?

I'm pleased for my client, her dog, and her trial counsel (Joe Lazarra), to see a good result (which, incidentally, is very close to the plea bargain originally reached in the case). It is also worth noting that restitution has already been paid in the case.

25 February 2008

God and Astronomy

The revival of the heliocentric theory was initiated by the Polish astronomer, Nicolaus Copernicus (1473-1543). . . . John Calvin (1509-1564). . . cried out: "Who will venture to place the authority of Copernicus above that of the Holy Spirit?"

Martin Luther (1483-1546) [called] Copernicus . . . "an upstart astrologer" and " a fool." Luther's condemnation was . . . based on the authority of the Bible as he himself said:

"That is how things go nowadays. Anyone who wants to be clever must not let himself like what others do. He must produce his own product as this man [Copernicus] does, who wishes the turn the whole of astronomy upside down. But I believe in the Holy Scripture, since Joshua ordered the Sun, not the earth to stand still."

Luther's disciple Melanchthon (1497-1560) had this to add, "Now it is in want of honesty to assert such notions publicly, and the example is pernicious. It is part of a good mind to accept the truth as revealed by God and to acquiesce to it." . . .

In 1616, Pope Paul V (1552-1621) issued a bull which condemned the Copernican system as heretical. It called the theory "more scandalous, more detestable, and more pernicious to Christianity than any contained in the books of Calvin, Luther and of all other heretics put together." In 1620, the Inquisition banned all publications that taught the Copernican system. . . .

Italian philosopher, Giordano Bruno (1548-1600). . . . was arrested by the Inquisition in 1592 for his assertion that it was the earth that moved around the sun. For nine years Bruno was interrogated, tortured and tried. Then, in the year 1600, he was burned at the stake as a heretic. . . .

Italian astronomer, physicists and philosopher, Galileo Galilei (1564-1642). . . . was summoned by Pope Urban VIII in 1633 to appear before the Inquisition in Rome. Galileo, already seventy years old and in ill health, was forced to make the journey in the chilly winter of February 1633, from Florence, where he lived, to Rome. There under threat of torture, Galileo was forced to recant. The old and ailing man was also forced to read the following declaration:

"I, Galileo Galilei ... aged seventy years, being brought personally to judgement, and kneeling before you Most Eminent and Most Reverend Lord Cardinals, General Inquisitor of the universal Christian republic against depravity ... swear that ... I will in future believe every article which the Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church of Rome holds, teaches and preaches ... I held and believed that the sun is the center of the universe and is immovable, and that the earth is not the center and is movable; willing therefore, to remove from the minds of your Eminences, and of every Catholic Christian, this vehement suspicion [of heresy] rightfully entertained against me, ... I abjure, curse and detest the said errors and heresies,... and I swear that I will never more in future say or assert anything verbally or in writing, which may give rise to a similar suspicion against me ... But if it shall happen that I violate any of my said promises, oaths and protestations (which Go averts!), I subject myself to all the pain and punishments which have been decreed ... against delinquents of this description."

Galileo was then sentenced to life imprisonment in a Roman dungeon. This was later commuted to placing him under house arrest. [He] died in 1642, a blind and broken man. . . . Galileo's manuscripts were destroyed and even his right to be buried on consecrated ground was disputed. . . . The Catholic Church, after appointing a committee to study the issue for thirteen years, only "forgave" Galileo in 1992.

From here.

UPDATE: It is worth noting that in current debates over evolution that it is not uncommon to compare evolution to the far less controversial theory of gravity. Solar astronomy, of course, is simply a non-trivial derivation of the law of gravity (one of my homework assignments in college was to make that derivation). So, gravity was once every bit as controversial as evolution is today.

Recent Presidential Polls

Recent polls in the race for the Democratic nomination for President show Obama strongly leading in Vermont and leading in Texas (also here), while Clinton leads in Ohio (also here), and strongly leads in Rhode Island. Clinton's margin of support over Obama in Ohio has declined, however, which reduces the likely gain in net delegates that she can expect to secure in the state. Primaries or caucuses (or both) will be held in each state on March 4.

[UPDATE: It looks increasingly likely that Obama and Clinton will capture equal numbers of delegates on March 4 from the four races combined.]

Clinton needs strong showings in Ohio, Texas and Pennsylvania to make up a current deficit in delegates (both total and pledged). Bill Clinton has said publicly that Hillary Clinton needs to win both Ohio and Texas to remain viable in the race for the Democratic Presidential nomination.

A CBS national poll, in line with most (although not all) recent state and national polls, shows Obama doing much better in a head to head race with McCain than Clinton does. States Obama seems likely to win v. McCain that Clinton does not include: Oregon, Nevada, Colorado, Iowa, Wisconsin and Virginia. Clinton may have an edge in Arkansas. Notably, neither Democrat seems likely to pull out Florida, despite the state's decisive roll in 2000 and 2004. Clinton is stronger v. McCain in equally decisive Ohio, but both Democrats seems likely to win that state at this point in time.

The general election in 2008 for President, of course, will be conducted state by state, so national polls are only dim indicators of a final result. But, polls like this do influence superdelegates who are hungry to win in the general election after losing to George W. Bush the last two times around. Skeptics suggest that McCain's strong support of an unpopular war makes him a hard sell against either Democrat.

DU Prof Chimes In On SEC Proxy Access Rules

J. Robert Brown Jr. of D.U. Law recently posted for comment an article about the SEC role in trying to force publicly held corporations to depart from a Soviet style elections for corporate directors. He concludes that:

[I]n an era of activist shareholders, pressure on the SEC to reform its rules will continue to grow. Moreover, continued denial of access will make things worse, leading to efforts by activist shareholders that are more intrusive and more likely to result in contests for the board of directors. The denial of access also leaves in place a serious gap in the disclosure regime for proxy contests. Finally, as the SEC becomes increasingly involved in the corporate governance process, a role it has not historically had to consider, the denial of access raises questions about the agency's willingness to protect the interests of shareholders.

In other words, the SEC should seriously consider giving in to the inevitable.

Court Punts on Amendment 41

It finds that the case is not yet ripe and that Ritter is a proper party. It punts on the merits.

22 February 2008

Amendment 41 Ruling Coming Monday

On Monday, February 25, 2008, the Colorado Supreme Court will release its ruling in the case of Developmental Pathways v. Ritter (full disclosure, my law partner is a Plaintiff in the action, I have not participated in the case in any way and I have no privileged information from the Plaintiff's legal team). At issue are the following questions:

1. Whether Colo. Const. art. XXIX is self-executing prior to the appointment of the Ethics Commission and the enactment of rules.

2. Whether Governor Ritter is a proper party.

3. Whether the gift limitations in article XXIX apply only to gifts given or received for private gain or personal financial gain in violation of the public trust.

4. Whether article XXIX, §§ 2 and 3 violate the rights of speech, association and petition.

The opinion will be available at this link on Monday morning.

The most notable and contested provisions of Amendment 41 impose a gift ban upon a large share of all governmental employees in Colorado.

There are deep disputes between supporters and opponents of the measure regarding what the language in the gift ban means. Supporters basically feel that the Amendment applies only in cases of gifts that amount to bribes. Opponents feel that the Amendment is far broader in effect, and would not necessarily be greatly concerned if the Colorado Supreme Court definitively gave the Amendment the narrow reading proposed by supporters.

The case could also have a meaningful impact on the Second Congressional District race in which Jared Polis, one of the biggest financial backers of Amendment 41 is a candidate.

The first two issues before the Colorado Supreme Court offer it an opportunity to punt and avoid reaching the merits of the case (for a second time, the Colorado Supreme Court refused to issue an advisory opinion previously requested by the state legislature). The second two issues go to the merits of the meaning and validity of the gift ban.

Pending this appeal, the gift ban of Amendment 41 has been the subject of an injunction preventing it from taking effect, so depending upon how the questions before the Colorado Supreme Court are resolved, the gift ban could again immediately begin to impact government employees starting on Monday.

Federal Circuit Maims Whistle Blower Protections

From here:

So Congress passed a law in 1978 and strengthened it in 1989 to say federal managers can't fire, demote or reassign to broom- closet duty employees who blow the whistle. It's a good law, but it's only a law. . . . Ever since it began taking these cases, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in Washington has weakened protections for whistleblowers while making it easier for managers to retaliate. Only two employees won reprisal claims in the appeals court in more than 13 years, compared with 183 managers who prevailed . . .

Consider these decisions:

You aren't eligible for protection if someone else blew the whistle first, even if you risked your job to corroborate the other informant's allegations.

In another decision, the court said you also can lose if your superiors already knew they were doing wrong. . . .

If your boss harasses you in the mistaken belief you are the one who blew the whistle, you are out of luck. That is, the appeals court held, managers who finger the wrong employee as a snitch can freely retaliate. . . .

The appeals court in 1995 ruled against a border patrolman who was sacked after reporting that another agent fatally shot and buried an unarmed Mexican in an unmarked grave. The agency blamed the snitch for not snitching sooner. Apparently he took too much time -- overnight -- to shake off the killer's implied death threat against him.

The court in 1993 ruled that whistleblowers, to win a retaliation claim, had to first overcome the ``presumption that public officers perform their duties correctly, fairly, in good faith and in accordance with the law.''

Six years later, the court said meeting that burden requires ``irrefragable proof.'' The word means airtight. . . . The whistleblower law itself merely says the employee qualifies for whistleblower status if he or she ``reasonably believes'' that misconduct has occurred.

The ``irrefragable'' language created such a backlash, inviting Congress to rein in the court yet again, that the judges later eased off a tad. They narrowed slightly the sorts of cases where it would be applied and ruled that a tattling employee can get whistleblower protection if the official conduct is so egregious it isn't ``debatable among reasonable people.''

The decisions go to the Federal Circuit because all appeals come from the Merit System Protection Board. According to the article: "The House and Senate have passed bills to shut the loopholes the appeals court created and to end the exclusive hold those judges have on whistleblower cases." Similar appellate structures exist for the Tax Court and the NLRB.

Congress is obviously doing the right thing. A deeper question is why the Federal Circuit has gone rogue. Its intellectually property jurisprudence has recently received repeated slams from the U.S. Supreme Court for being off base.

While subject matter specific courts have great intellectual appeal, some of the most famous subject matter specific courts have produced questionable results that appear biased.

The Federal Circuit Court of Appeals (a federal Article III court) has been strongly anti-whistle blower and too lenient in invalidating marginal intellectual property claims.

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals (a state court of last resort) is strongly pro-prosecution.

The Board of Immigration Appeals (a federal administrative court) is strongly anti-immigrant and moreover, often acts as a rubber stamp on lower court decisions without engaging in substantive review.

The National Labor Relations Board (a federal administrative court with non-judicial responsibilities as well) has become strongly anti-labor.

The Delaware Chancery Court has not been nearly so greatly criticized, it is a favorite of senior managers at publicly held companies across the nations, but the Chancery Court is popular to a great extent because of, rather than due to the absence of, a perceived bias in favor of corporate management.

There is, similarly, a strong perception that the housing courts of New York City are biased in favor of tenants.

Bias is an inherent risk in any judicial system, but it appears that it takes superhuman fortitude to remain neutral in a context in which the same fact patterns constantly recur between parties in unequal relationships, in case after case. The system of precedent also contributes by making early victories that slightly bias the system one way or the other snowball such that judges who disagree with the earlier biases reading fresh from the statute are duty bound to perpetuate these biased readings of the law.

In contrast, judges with diversified caseloads, like those of the U.S. Courts of Appeal for geographic circuits, come to individual cases with less baggage, and must consider, but are not bound by, most of the precedent which comes from other circuits. This allows the "wisdom of crowds" to surface and mitigate bad decisions. It also makes it easier to flag for the U.S. Supreme Court through mature circuit conflicts, situations where precedent has drifted from statutory intent.

A similar process has helped the common law evolve, as state supreme courts and courts of appeal routinely rely upon the experience of other states in reaching their decisions, without being bound to follow poorly reasoned precedent in other states. This process also flags for the U.S. Supreme Court unclear areas of constitutional law through interstate conflicts of law on the federal constitutional issues that arise in the state court.

Another factor that may impact specialized courts is that it is easier to deliberately pick judges prone to be biased on a particular issue where the political winds strongly favor one side in the disputes of the type that it handles, while it is harder to pick judges for a diversified docket who will show bias to all of the politically privileged sides of ongoing legal struggles across the board. Even strongly liberal or strongly conservative judges are rarely monolithic.

Perhaps we would be better off if the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit were simply disbanded. Obviously, the judges would have to be reassigned to other Article III courts given the protections that adhere to Article III judges, but our nation's experiment with a specialized court has largely proved to be a failure.

21 February 2008

Why Protect Private Arms Possession?

An interesting article by law professor Michael Steven Green that shares the title of this post about the Second Amendment has been posted on the Social Science Research Network (hat tip to How Appealing).

The importance of the subject is described in the final paragraph of the abstract:

Clarity about the value of private arms possession is essential for determining the scope of the Second Amendment under an individual right interpretation - a project that lower courts will be forced to undertake if Parker [ed. v. District of Columbia (the D.C. Circuit case appealed in Heller)] is affirmed. Courts commonly interpret the scope of a constitutional right in light of the interests the right protects. For this reason, they need a clear conception of why individuals have an interest in private arms possession. I offer this article as a first, but crucial, step toward answering this question.

The core headings in the paper broadly outline his analysis:

1. Does private arms possession make us safer?
2. If private arms possession makes us safer, does that mean we have a fundamental interest in bearing arms?
3. Are constitutional rights that promote public safety necessary?
4. A puzzle concerning scope.
1. The natural right to bear arms.
2. Wasn’t the natural right to bear arms alienated upon entering the social contract?
3. A thought experiment.
4. Problems of scope.
1. Will allowing individuals to vindicate their visions of reserved rights make it more likely that reserved rights are respected?
2. Blackstone on auxiliary rights.

A Brief Overview

Self-defense is at the core of the reason why most Americans who own firearms which the government is inclined to regulate do so. Thus, justifications other than self-defense for an individual right to bear arms leave open considerable room to contrain the value of bearing arms for the purposes of self-defense, so long as another justification is adopted. For example, if the core of the right is the right to protect your household in the anarchy of a foreign invasion or insurrection, it might be reasonable to restrict the right to regulate concealed carrying of guns away from home to a much greater extent than it would be otherwise.

The conventional reading of the Second Amendment focuses on revolution against tyranny. This is on one hand, one of the most narrow readings of the right, but on the other hand, opens up the door to private ownership of all sorts of weapons relevant to that purpose that have no legitimate justification for self-defense against ordinary crime or for hunting. Defense against tyranny by a government with its own military, rightfully ought to require heavy machine guns, anti-tank weapons, ground to air missiles and the like. The absurdity of widespread ownership of these kinds of weapons suggests the impracticality of reading an individual right to bear arms, as opposed to a collectively one belonging to state governments, from this kind of justification.

While many people agree that hunting is a legitimate use for firearms, very few people argue that the Second Amendment protects a right to hunt, or that there is a right to hunt. Indeed, almost every state comprehensively regulates hunting in a matter that elaborate controls the amount of game that may be taken, the places where game may be taken, the time of year when game may be taken, and the kind of game that may be taken, usually in connection with licensing and fee conditions. The legitimacy of these regulations is almost never seriously doubted by anti-gun control advocates (other than those extemists who question of the legitimacy of almost all governmental entities). And, if the state is perfectly entitled to tell you what kind of gun and what kind of ammunition you may use to hunt, and at what time and in what manner you manner you may do so, then that doesn't look much like a constitutional right.

The Second Amendment As An Unincorporated Collective Right

I personally favor viewing the Second Amendment as a collective right, that restrains only to the federal government, which allows state and local governments to continue to have armed individuals who enforce their laws, notwithstanding a federal monopoly on the maintenance of a genuine Army or Navy.

One important historical fact that buttresses this approach is that formation in 1854(63 years after the Bill of Rights was adopted) of the Boston Police Department constituted the first paid, professional police service in the United States. Equally important, its means of crime control prior to the formation of the Boston Police Department, which was common throughout the urban areas of the American colonies before that point in time was a citizen's militia:

The first night watch was established in Boston in 1631 with an officer and six men. By 1635 the watch consisted of property owning males over 16 who were required to take turns at the duty without pay. In 1703 pay in the sum of 35 shillings a month was set. In 1796, the Watch was reorganized and the watchmen carried a badge of office, a rattle, and a six-foot pole, which was painted blue and white with a hook on one end and a bill on the other. The hook was used to grab fleeing criminals, and the rounded “bill” was used as a weapon. The rattle was a noise-making device used for calling for assistance.

In 1838 the Day Police was organized, having no connection with the Night Watch. The Day Police operated under the city marshal and had six appointed officers. In 1853, the Harbor Police was created in response to the increase in robberies of occupied vessels in the waters of Boston Harbor. They were furnished with rowboats and armed with Colt revolvers. This was the first unit furnished with firearms.

Thus, in early Boston, law enforcement was conducted by citizen militias who used their own firearms to carry out that duty.

In my view, the natural successor to the militia of the Second Amendment is not primarily the National Guard, as claimed by many commentators. Instead, it is the local government operated police force, which is now ubiquitous. Hence, I see the Second Amendment (which was widely agreed in its original context to be a restraint on the federal government only, not a protection from state regulation which was subject to state constitutional limitations) as a prohibition against the creation of a federal monopoly on armed law enforcement.

In this analysis, the "well regulated" language of the Second Amendment comports well with the notion that most state governments require police officer standards training before someone can receive recognition as a law enforcement officer.

The Strongest Argument For An Individual Right To Bear Arms

While I don't agree that the Second Amendment creates an individual right to bear arms, some state constitutional protections probably do, and there are some non-trivial arguments that there ought to be an individual right to bear arms.

The most compelling arguments for an individual right to bear arms in self-defense, in my view, are the mirror image of the fact that there is no individually enforceable right to receive protection from violence through governmental law enforcement authorities.

The government has no obligation to help you even when informed through proper channels and court certified determinations, in no uncertain terms, of a known and imminent deadly threat to your personal safety which would be possible for law enforcement officers to respond to if the responsible government manager chose to do so. This proposition is settled law enunciated by the U.S. Supreme Court in a case out of Castle Rock, Colorado. The principal exception to this rule (for law enforcement-created dangers) does not materially alter this analysis.

Remarkably, the author of the linked article maxed on at length about the political theory notion that there is an obligation on the part of the government to provide a minimal level of personal safety to its citizens, while failing to note that no such enforceable individual right has ever been recognized. Our constitutional scheme is largely not designed to protect people from non-state actors; private law is largely the province of the states and of statutory federal law. Civil rights violations, for example, by definition, involve acts by state actors under color of law.

Similarly, in American law (unlike the law of most European countries where there is a duty to prosecte crimes subject to certain limitations), prosecutors likewise have the absolute right not to pursue a prosecution even in the face of irrefutable proof that a crime has been committed at a time when the prosecutor's office has sufficient resources to take on the case. This right, called prosecutorial discretion, is rarely systemically abused (although the recent U.S. attorneys' scandal illustrates how bringing excessive prosecutions can be abused). But, this doctrine has the potential to allow violent private actors empowered by an indifferent prosecutor to commit crimes against innocent citizens with impunity in circumstances where the rest of the government, motivated by majoritarian political motives, isn't offended enough by this act to remove the prosector from office.

Thus, an individual right to bear arms may be the only available recourse available to someone who needs to secure their personal safety from private violence. Viewed in this manner, the universal privilege to use deadly force in self-defense in some circumstances is reinforced by the right to bear arms, and both recognize the inability or unwillingness of the government to provide adequate protection to everyone.

This most compelling justification has lost some of its currency in the popular mind, because it rarely manifests itself in modern urban life which is were most voters live their lives. Cases like the one in Castle Rock are a notable product of unusual incompetence, lack of leadership and a bueaucratic bad attitude, more than they are a product of any active malice. The modern urban reality is that it is rare for law enforcement to show deliberate disregard for the safety of the general public. Also, while law enforcement responses are never instantaneous, in violent emergencies, police in the vast majority of the territory of most modern urban areas can usually be counted upon to arrive in a matter of minutes.

But, like cell phone coverage, the quality and good faith of police protection varies from place to place.

In low density urban areas, particularly in the early days of the Republic when muscle power was the only way to travel overland, but even now in remote areas, the ability of law enforcement to mount a prompt response to violent actors was negligible. In places like the pre-civil rights era rural South, law enforcement often deliberately refused to protect citizens from lynch mobs. In a deeply distressed urban ghetto, the kind often called a "war zone," police are often not effective at securing minimal personal protection for residents. A temporary interlude of lost law enforcement authority can arise when a large criminal motorcycle gang sudden drives into town outnumbering local law enforcement officers ten to one or more. In natural disasters, the police may be to overwhelmed to act or unable to reach you and protect you. Calling the cops isn't a viable options if your cell phone battery is dead, the landline is down or has been cut, and you are out of earshot from potentially helpful neighbors. Use your imagination and you can conjure up similar situations.

While some of the individuals have only a passing and transitory need for armed self-defense, and one would expect a majoritarian government to make reasonable laws governing when to allow people to arm themselves for these kinds of eventualities, there is another class of cases in these examples that is systemic and political in nature, without being revolutionary. An individual Second Amendment right to bear arms becomes political when the government chooses to refrain from providing a minimal level of personal protection from private violence to members of some unpopular minority group.

Perhaps that group consists of Korean storekeepers in a large Los Angeles neighborhoods who have dealt sharply with local residents in areas so beset by riots by angry African-Americans protesting an unjust judicial verdict that majority white police are incapable of protecting them or disinclined to risk their own lives to do so. Perhaps that group consists of blacks in a neighborhood beset by private KKK violence that local sheriff's choose to ignore. Perhaps that group consists of lawfully striking union members attacked by goons employed by their employers. Perhaps that group consists of Muslim women targeted for honor killings, or police informants targeted for gang or organized crime hits, whose killings are notoriously difficult to solve. Perhaps the group consists of Jews targeted by private Nazi organizations, in a Warsaw ghetto type situation. As Rwanda illustrated, collective violence even by crowds armed only with machettes and torches from a basically disarmed population can be the ulimate genocidal weapon of a majority unimpeded by governmental authority, against an unpopular minority.

One of the other notable omissions of the linked author is his failure to recognize that even when there is a tyrant government, that tyrants, either majoritarian or minoritarian, can act tyanically simply by letting private actors disregard the rule of law. Inaction can be as much of a force for tyrany as active governmental action in a world with organized private actors willing to take advantage of the license that the tyrant grants to them. Quite a bit of the violence in Iraq under U.S. occupation can be explained through that model.

Of course, the ability of members of a group to buy and own guns when they anticipate a legitimate reason to fear the combination of law enforcement indifference and organized private violence against them, might discourage the use of private violence as a political weapon generally, protecting minority political and personal rights from partisan political violence, and generally keeping politics more civil but keeping violence off the table even if the government is inclined to overlook it. It discourages headlines like the one in the New York Times after Pakistan's most recent election that proclaimed the election mostly orderly because "only 15 people" were murdered in election related violence.

A lens that sees an individual right to bear arms as a backstop against failures of the government to adequately secure public safety for some individuals whom it may lack poltical incentives to protect comes closest to outlining what sort of reasonable regulation of the right makes sense, while recognizing that the Second Amendment does have a political character. This view fits comfortably into a legal regime that does not legitimatize the right of individuals to decide for themselves to carry out treason against the existing state, because they personally see it as illegitimate, which is the usual tyrrany argument.

Seen as a tool to use to enforce the democratically enacted criminal laws when the government fails to do so, so that one may protect the individual rights that the criminal law is a device to ensure, when a lawsuit would be unavailing, an individual right to bear arms seems less threatening to public safety, and develops a framework within which it is possible to assess what regulations of the right are reasonable, and which are not.

19 February 2008

Presidential Race Check In

Obama (24)

Alabama, Alaska, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Carolina, Utah, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin (also the Virgin Islands)

Clinton (13)

Arizona, Arkansas, California, Florida (no delegates), Massachusetts, Michigan (no delegates and no other major candidate on ballot), Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oklahoma, Tennessee (also American Samoa)

Not Yet Voted (14)

Favor Obama (6): Mississippi, Montana, North Carolina, Oregon, South Dakota, Wyoming (also Democrats Abroad)

Favor Clinton (5): Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virigina

Hard to Call (3): Rhode Island, Texas, Vermont (also Puerto Rico)


Of course, since the Democratic nomination is not decided on a winner take all basis, and also involves superdelegates and Congressional District level delegate allocations, simply winning states doesn't tell the whole story.

But, Obama leads in states won, in total delegates and in pledged delegates at this point, as well as in fund raising, in national opinion polls, in the popular vote so far, and in most state polling in a general election poll head to head against John McCain, the presumptive Republican nominee. Obama has frequently secured greater margins of victory than Clinton in the states he has won, and has proved more popular with independent voters. Obama has also won ten straight states in a row, and has never come out worse than second place in a contest. The online gambling forums favor Obama strongly.

Clinton, in contrast, leads only in superdelegates, with about half of all superdelegates committed at this point and another 400 or so uncommitted. Clinton came in third place in Iowa behind Obama and Edwards, and has come in first or second place in all other races. Clinton last won a race on Super Tuesday on February 5.

Edwards, who has since dropped out of the race, is believed to favor Obama, which could win Obama another 26 Edwards delegates.

While the Democratic race will almost certainly be decided by superdelegates unless a candidate withdraws, superdelegates are not expected to buck a candidate with an unequivocal lead by other measures.

All eyes are now on Texas, which has already started early voting. One poll showed Obama behind by two percentage points in that state, while another showed him behind by five percentage points. But, Obama has frequently exceeded the expectations set by polls, and two more wins today won't hurt his recent surge in the polls in Texas.

An Obama win in Texas would be a serious blow for the Clinton campaign. Obama wins in Texas, Rhode Island and Vermont might very well finish Clinton as a viable candidate, despite her large number of accrued delegates. A win for Clinton in Ohio, Texas, Rhode Island and Vermont on March 4, in contrast, particularly if the margins of victory in Ohio and Texas were convincing, would reinvigorate her campaign.

GOP Voter ID Implodes To 64 Year Low

According to a Pew Center average of monthly polls, 33.7 percent of those surveyed identified themselves as independents in 2007. Those who identified themselves as Democrats were next in line, at 32.9 percent. Republicans have been losing voters since 2003, and finished last year with 25.4 percent of those polled — a historic low in the time that Pew has been surveying voters [ed. i.e. since 1944].

From here.

The decline relative to the Democrats pretty much coincides with the Iraq War during the Presidency of George W. Bush whose popularity is on a par with Nixon. The survey also reports that independents lean disproportionately towards the Democrats.

Blu-Ray v. HD DVD

The effort to get customers to accept a next generation DVD format with greater resolution has been stalled by a format dispute between the Blu-Ray format and the HD DVD format, reimiscent of the VHS v. Beta dispute in the early days of VCRs.

It appears tht Blu-Ray is on the verge of winning. The abandoned HD DVD format would go the way to the Betamax, the digital video disk, and the 8 track.

The Wild World of Physics

In preparing the previous post on "Measuring Gravity" I skimmed a thousand or so physics journal articles. Like most lay people interested in physics, I'm interested in the fundamental questions of how we are going to solve the great unsolved mysteries of quantum mechanics, general relativity, and cosmology, the existence of which is universally accepted in the field.

The physicists who concern themselves with these questions at times like the present, when all the old billion dollar toys have been milked for all that they are worth, and none of the new billion dollar toys have started spewing out intereting new data yet, are theoretical physicists who publish mostly in the broad subfields of high energy physics and general relativity. And publish they do, thousands of them who collectively publish hundreds of articles a day under the intense publish or perish pressures of academe.

Theoretical physicists are overwhelmingly legitimate professors at respected institution of higher education with PhDs from accredited universities who do work on these papers for essentially all of their their work time when they are not teaching or attending faculty meetings, for most, 20-30 hours of week during the semester, and 40-60 hours a week during summer vacation. They have mortgages, spouses, and children. They read typical daily newspapers, collect Dilbert cartoons, drink coffee and play Sudoku, when they aren't taking their kids to soccer or teaching acne faced kids about Maxwell's Law, dot products, and torque. Living in university towns from the time I was seven until the time I was twenty-four, with only a one year interlude in between, and having taken college level physics classes in two different universities, I know these people.

I preface what I am about to say with the ad hominem comments above, because most theoretical physics papers (maybe 90%-95%) are truly wacky by the standards of almost any other discipline in the sciences.

A theoretical biology paper might propose that New World fauna hung out on the Bering Land Bridge for twenty-thousand years before dispersing, rather than dispersing immediately upon crossing it.

In contrast, in theoretical physics, far more than a majority propose new dimensions (several numbers are popular but there is no consensus), new kinds of particles (often dozens) and/or new fundamental forces for which there is virtually no empirical evidence, the vast majority of which have no significant support outside a small clutch of fellow travelers in the theoretical physical community who are a vanishingly small minority within the whole. Many argue from the "antropomorphic principle" which basically says that the world is the way that it is because we live in it, so it must be that way. A small percentage of the more grounded articles discuss experiments which could be used to prove one or the other of these theories, or "no go" theorems that rule out entire classes of these ideas, which are generally ignored by the people who propound them in the first place. Sometimes, several journal articles will engage in dialog which basically consists of each side explaining to the other why their proposal is baloney due to its lack of rigorous mathematics or contradiction of existing experiments, which usually receives a response in kind along the lines of a statement that the critics didn't actually understand the paper that they are criticizing.

Unlike articles by lay people, the vast majority of these wacky theories are (1) theoretically possible given current experimental knowledge, (2) toy models that illustrate a concept to be used later that don't purport to have physical reality, or (3) incapable of being applied in a sufficiently definite matter to make predictions that can be proven or disproven at this time.

Also unlike articles written by lay people, most of them use the accepted mathematical language of physics, cite to existing work in the field, and are variations on a theme of one of dozens of recurring approaches to reconciling the unsolved problems of fundamental physics. For example, many use some form of Lie algebra to establish a set of equations similar to, but not identical to the core equations of quantum mechanics used in connection with the standard model of particle physics.

Furthermore, unlike lay people, the authors generally understand, although they don't usually admit it in print, that it is highly likely that the precise wacky theory that they are presenting is probably not the way that the universe really works, and are simply offering trial balloons to explore various approaches to getting a final solution that could go somewhere when additional data starts to favor that general approach.

It is half theology, half role playing games for people who are really, really good at math and physics, and half whimsy. Somewhere buried in there is a sincere and widely shared desire to get to the bottom of the question, but that desire is stymied, among all but the very most prestigious among them who may be brilliant but may simply have delusions of grandeur, by the tacit recognition that we are stuck in the process of solving the puzzle and can't get unstuck until we have more very expensive to obtain data to clear out the ticket of unworkable theories.

This isn't restricted to the oft maligned string theorists. Essentially, it is a disease of the entire endeavor. And, a break though would be an amazing wonderful thing. But, up close in this part of science, it is hard to herald the actual process by which new scientific knowledge is generated as anything much more sophisticated than the room full of monkeys with typewriters trying to write Shakespear.

Measuring Gravity

We understand the strength of gravity far less well than most fundamental physical constants, to a level of accuracy comparable to about one centimeter on a 100 meter field. It is also not particularly well tested at very short ranges (micro-meter scales) and in very weak fields. A number of theoretical physics theories are looking for new physics in these domains.

New experimental tests limit how extreme the deviation from the Newtonian norm can be at the micrometer scale, and in the process rule out several possible theories of quantum gravity. New experiments are likely to produce even more accurate measurements over the next few years.

Also, always interesting are the latest musings of Jacob D. Bekenstein on alternatives to dark matter through adjustments to the equations of general relativity that could explain phenomena attributed to dark matter. He gets some constructive criticism in another recent paper that proposed a tweak to address a flaw the authors state that they have identified in his theory.

Another interesting paper about the phenomena sometimes called dark energy from a Greek scholar considering empirical evidence measuring the Casimir force concludes that: "with or without the presence of a compact extra dimension, vacuum energy with any suitable cutoff can not play the role of the cosmological constant."

18 February 2008

Nature, Nuture and Luck

An ingrained assumption of the scientific literature on heredity is that non-hereditary variation between people is a function of their differential environmental influences. Yet, the more I read, the less plausible this seemingly safe assumption appears.

For example, I've recently been reading Entwined Lives: Twins and What They Tell Us About Human Behavior, by Nancy L. Segal (1999), in which the author repeatly employs this conceit.

For example, regarding IQ the author notes (in accord with many other credible sources on the subject) that:

IQ heritability (the extent to which genetic differences among people explain IQ differences) is estimated to be 20% in infancy, 40% in childhood, 50% in adolescence, and 60% in adulthood. . . . Typical IQ correlations are .86 for identical twins reared together, .75 for identical twins reared apart, .60 for fraternal twins, .42 for parents and children, and .15 for cousins. IQ correlations for adopted relatives are generally lower then those for biological relatives. They reflect the effects of shared environmental influences on intellectual development.

I have seen other accounts that put peak heritability of IQ at closer to 50% than 60%.

Yet, she also notes that:

One of the most compelling contributions from twin studies has been the knowledge that living together does not make people alike in intelligence. . . . Adoptive siblings show some IQ resemblence in childhood (.29-.34 correlation), suggesting a modest but real contribution from the shared environment. When adoptive siblings are studies in adolescence and adulthood, however, their IQ correlation reduces to zero (below the .15 cousin correlation), showing that shared environmental effects on intelligence diminish as they age.

One sees a similar pattern in the somewhat more nebulous area of a wide host of personality traits. "Approximately 20%-50% of individual differences in personality are genetically based." Of the "Big Five" personality traits (extraversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, neuroticism, and openness to experience), some have a higher heritability figure (49% for extraversion), some are lower (39% for agreeableness) and others come in between. As in the case of intelligence, environment seems to play a bigger role in personality in infancy and childhood, but "[p]ersonality studies concentrating on adolescence and adulthood report escalating genetic influence which eventually stablizes until late adulthood before diminishing somewhat, probably due to accumulated individual experiences."

Among other personality traits exhibiting genetic impacts are characteristic levels of happiness, shyness, "well being", stress reaction, aggression, chance of never marrying, religiousity, propensity to watch television, and "Traditionalism, the endorsement of traditional family and moral values." But, again, the studies show that "Shared environments make a small contribution to personality similarity among relatives." For example, variations in Traditionalism "did not show common family effects" which were not attributable completely to genetics . . . . "living together does not make people living in a family alike." Instead, these "similarities are explained primarily by shared genes."

Some studies have even found greater personality similarities in twins reared apart than in twins reared together, a "highly counterintuitive" finding perhaps explained by the theory that "twins living apart express themselves more freely because they are not influenced by their twin, while twins living together 'create' differences in the interest of individuation." She also notes that "Physical features, while similar in identical twins, are not linked to personality traits so even if similar responses are triggered by similar faces and figures they will have little effect on the developing personality."

She concludes this analysis with the common place conclusion that "If genes explain 20%-50% of the variation in personalitity and shared environment has a modest impact, then non-shared environments must account for the rest." She then goes on to discuss at length the notion that families have different ecological niches in them that influence personality and development.

The other possibility, however, is that there is an impact other than birth right and environment (shared or non-shared) on intellectual development. Perhaps, like iris patterns or finger prints, a significant share of how our genes express themselves is simply random and has neither a genetic cause, nor a meaningful environmental source.

Related to the notion of the impact of luck is the fact that almost no mental traits, with the exception of adult intelligence (and certain well known single gene mutations most of which are associated with various forms of mental retardation), break the 50% barrier for heritability. Given the very modest contributions of a shared environment to variation in these traits, perhaps the balance of the variation is genuinely random, perhaps even by means of some as yet not well understood process that causes intellectual development traits to manifest themselves only 50% of the time in people with identical genes.

A particularly striking example is schitzophrenia, which is known to have a strong birth right component, much of which is genetic in nature.

Approximately 1% of the general population is at lifetime risk for schitzophrenia, but if a person is affected, the risk rises to about 6% for his or her parents, 9% for his or her siblings, 13% for his or her children, 17% for his or her fraternal twin and 48% for his or her identical twin.

(A link between advanced paternal age and schitzophrenia suggest that age related mutation may explain much of the balance of the variation in the statistics shown above.)

Thus, only half of genetically, paternal age and pre-natal environment identical individuals express schitzophrenia, right at the upper limit observed for most mental traits with a genetic component.

The fact that the difference between identical twins who express schitzophrenia and those who do is not genetic in nature is further born out by another convincing study of "schizophrenia in children born to normal identical and fraternal twins and their schitzophenic twin siblings."

Remarkably, children of both well and ill identical twins showed the disorder with near equal frequency (17.4% and 16.8%), while children of well and ill fraternal twins differed greatly (2.1% and 17.4%). These findings confirm that identical twins inherit the same genetically influenced disease predisposition that can be passed to children even by a twin who does not express the disease, and that living with a schitzophrenia parent is not necessary for a disorder to appear in a child.

Some linkage in propensity to express schitzophrenia has been linked to the number of fingerprint ridges a child has, and in cases in which there are the biggest differences between twins, to birth weight and delivery traumas. Also even twins who are not described as actually expressing schitzophrenia are described as having "personality quirks and idiosyncrasies" to a greater degree than unrelated individuals, suggesting that expression of schitzophrenia genes is not an all or nothing affair, with the difference being the intensity of the expression rather than the existence of the trait at, at least, a subclinical level. Similarly, a famous study of the "Genain Quadruplets" who were raised together, all four of whom developed schitzophrenia, all expressed this disorder to different extents in different developmental patterns.

Affected twins had subtle developmental delays, disruptive tendencies and shyness relative to their unaffected twins in childhood, but overall there were "few differences in childhood predictors of schitzophrenia." And, of course, all of these childhood symptoms seem to point more towards the notion that expression of the disorder or lack thereof is a course set early in childhood, not to an environmental cause. (Notably, Alzheimer's disease appears to be another mental condition which is present at a subclinical level long before it can be diagnosed, often even decades earlier.)

It is fair to infer from the data, however, that a very large share of the likelihood that someone with a set of genes for schitzophrenia will expess that in a full blown case of schitzophrenia are just as random as the finger print patterns that have been linked to some extent to its expression in ways that have nothing to do with either genetics or any logically significant aspect of a shared or non-shared environment. Schitzophrenia expression may be just as random as the question of whether a particular sperm cell from a man with a given set of genes will fertilize an egg to become a boy or a girl.

Psychiatrists, geneticists, and psychologists would like to think that we live in a basically deterministic world where every effect has a determinable cause. But, the evidence seems to be mounting that expression of genetic predispositions towards mental traits may be as inherently stochastic in practice as the behavior of individual particles in the field of quantum mechanics.

It is an unsatisfactory conclusion that is hard to definitively prove because one never knows when one might find a missing link that clearly predicts who will and will not express a trait, or, at least, when the determination is made about who will and will not express it in the developmental process.

Most mental illnesses express themselves remarkably late in life for conditions with such strong genetic elements, and we also know that many of them routinely arise in the absence of any truly extreme conditions such as an intense psychological trauma (post-traumatic stress syndrome and possibly multiple personality disorder appear to be the most well known exceptions, with both having strong environmental causes).

Schitzophenia, for example, has among the strongest genetic elements of mental disorders (bipolar disorder may have an even stronger genetic element), but is typically a condition that manifests in late adolescence or young adulthood. We don't know, however, if one's fate to develop fully expressed schitzophrenia is determined in the womb, around the time of birth based upon birth traumas, in infancy, in childhood, or close to the time at which the disorder actually expresses itself.

Given the lack of any clear post-natal environmental factor in the epidemiology of one of the most carefully studied mental health conditions known (urban v. rural environment is perhaps the only environmental factor with well established statistical significance, and its impact is modest), it seems plausible that post-natal environmental factors aren't very important in determining if someone with a genetic predisposition does develop the condition. Likewise, much of the non-genetic variation observed in IQ and personality may simply be a matter of luck.

Not surprisingly, the National Institute of Mental Health is vigorously looking at the issue of why genetic predispositions to mental illnesses express themselves sometimes and not at other times.

UPDATE: The use of the word "luck" in the headline is, of course, something that no self-respecting behavioral scientist or evolutionary biologist would be in the title of the journal paper. The notion of a third factor distinct from genetics or environment needs a far more dignified name. I hereby dub this concept "random developmental variation" or "RDV" for short, until such time as I discover that there is another name for this concept in the literature that isn't totally lame.