Monday, October 20, 2014

If Minimum Wage Is So Great, Why Cite Bogus Study? - Larry Elder

If Minimum Wage Is So Great, Why Cite Bogus Study? - Larry Elder

The head of a Los Angeles-based nonprofit "sustainable economy" association calls for a higher minimum wage. No surprise there. But he cites a major pro-minimum wage study that responsible academics long ago abandoned.
Daniel Flaming of the Economic Roundtable, in a recent Los Angeles Times op-ed, said: "The conclusion that wage fairness is not a zero-sum game was established by a landmark study comparing neighboring counties in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, after New Jersey increased the minimum wage but Pennsylvania did not. It found that after the wage hike, employment in the fast-food industry increased more in New Jersey counties than in neighboring Pennsylvania counties."
Well, actually, no. This now infamous study by David Card and Alan Krueger did not prove such an outlandish thing. Here's what happened.
New Jersey raised its minimum wage. Pennsylvania did not. What will happen to the fast-food industry in these adjacent states? Good test case, right? If New Jersey fast-food workers suffered, it proves what most economists believe -- that minimum wage harms workers, particularly unskilled men, women and minorities, the kind of folks the left claims they care about. If, on the other hand, New Jersey's new wage law had no effect -- or even helped -- so much for the "artificially increase the cost of labor and you decrease the demand for it" argument.
Surprisingly, researchers discovered that New Jersey fast-food restaurants saw an (SET ITAL) increase (END ITAL) in employment relative to Pennsylvania. The study flew around the liberal world faster than a Sarah Palin joke. President Bill Clinton cited it. But a funny thing happened when the study was peer reviewed.
Researchers seeking to replicate the results obtained actual payroll records -- rather than simply phoning and asking hiring personnel whether they hired people during the period studied. Turns out, payroll records did not corroborate the verbal assertions made by employers. New Jersey actually suffered a (SET ITAL) decline (END ITAL) in employment relative to Pennsylvania -- just as traditional economic theory would have anticipated.
So why is this bogus study still cited? I put that question to Ohio University economist Lowell Gallaway, who has written critically about the study. Gallaway said: "The Card-Krueger study is still cited because it is useful politically. ... It still has legs because the minimum-wage notion is an idea that just will not die. You cannot put it to rest by any amount of evidence demonstrating its problems. Whenever people want to believe something strongly enough, any study that supports that belief -- no matter how bad it is -- will be accepted."
Vice President Joe Biden recently met with Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti to support the mayor's plan to raise the minimum wage in Los Angeles to $13.25 an hour. Days before that, the L.A. City Council approved another Garcetti plan to increase minimum wage for workers in large hotels to $15.37 per hour. Now back in 2008, the L.A. City Council passed a "living wage ordinance" for hotel workers in the L.A. airport area.
As with the minimum wage study of New Jersey and Pennsylvania, this, too, presented us with a real-world test case. What happened?
Beacon Economics, chosen by both management and labor to give an objective, nonpartisan report on the effect of a $15.37 hourly minimum wage, concluded that the effect of this 2008 wage hike was devastating. Beacon's founding partner, economist Christopher Thornberg, said: "The data clearly show that hotels around the airport have seen a sharp decline in employment relative to hotels in Los Angeles County overall. Some 12 percent more people are employed at hotels in the county than in 2007. ... But in the airport hotels covered by the law, hotel employment has declined 10 percent."
Even the editorial board of the Los Angeles Times, a supporter of the minimum wage, warned of the negative impact if surrounding cities failed to follow suit: "It's important that Los Angeles not go it alone. ... This is important to keep the city from becoming an island of high wages and to keep businesses from fleeing to cheaper locations outside L.A.'s borders." In other words, if Los Angeles acts stupidly, we hope and expect everybody else to do so as well.
More? How about the respected and widely cited leftwing think tank, the Brookings Institution? Brookings economist Gary Burtless, who specializes in labor, also says a $15-an-hour wage goes too far. While supportive of Obama's call for a $10.10 minimum wage, Burtless objected to Seattle's newly enacted $15 minimum wage: "Consider a business that mainly sells low-cost, fast-food meals. If it must pay $15 an hour to its low-wage employees, while its competitors less than a mile away are only required to pay $10 an hour, the companies outside Seattle can charge lower prices to their customers for shakes, burgers and fries, and yet still make a profit." Well, duh.
Why the madness despite its clear job-killing stupidity? L.A. City Councilman Mitch O'Farrell, a Democrat who represents the Hollywood area, said he understood the anti-minimum-wage Beacon report. But, said O'Farrell, "At the end of the day, between the intellect and the heart, the heart wins out."
Now go find a job.

Mother Jones Claims the Rate of Mass Shootings Has Tripled Since 2011. Is That True? - Hit & Run : Reason.com

Mother Jones Claims the Rate of Mass Shootings Has Tripled Since 2011. Is That True? - Hit & Run : Reason.com
The best critique I've seen of the original Mother Jones article was written by Michael Siegel. You should read the whole thing, but this is the key passage:
It is a truism of science that the more narrowly you define your sample and the more you shrink the number of data points, the less reliable your conclusions will be. If you were to analyze all gun shootings and violence over the last thirty years, you'd have hundreds of thousands of data points to base your conclusions on. You could, as I like to say, achieve Victory Through Sheer Data Volume. But when you start parsing the data down further and further, you become more prone to random variation and even bias.

Even if we take Mother Jones' data at face value, we can see we're dealing with less than 120 victims every year and frequently less than 20. That's an awfully small number to be drawing conclusions from. To illustrate why, take the Virginia Tech killings. 56 people were killed or wounded. That is more than all but five entire years in their database. Something like that is simply going to swamp the statistics.

But we shouldn't even take Mother Jones' data at face value because it is highly suspect. First, it seems to be based on media coverage, which is not exactly an objective source and almost certainly leaves shootings out....Everywhere, they make arbitrary cuts to exclude murders that may not fit their conclusions. They limit the sample to lone shooters, but make exceptions for Columbine and Westside. They exclude gang activity and other crimes but include the Fort Hood Shootings, which were an act of terrorism....They arbitrarily throw in a few spree killings.

This is simply not a representative sample. It's cherry-picked to fit a definition, but leaves huge gaping biases all over the place. Mother Jones doesn't even acknowledge this.

All this would be fine if you wanted to create an illustrative or representative sample. This is even fine if you want to draw some broad and overwhelming conclusions such as that most spree killers get their guns legally. But the low numbers and the biases blow up in your face when you try to do a more rigorous analysis....They've narrowed the sample so far down that they are essentially looking at noise.
The new analysis looks at the intervals between each incident rather than the annual numbers of crimes and victims. But aside from the fact that the list has been updated through 2014, this is the same data as the original article, with all the problems that Siegel and others pointed out before.
The best alternative measurement that I'm aware of comes from Grant Duwe, a criminologist at the Minnesota Department of Corrections. His definition of mass publicshootings does not make the various one-time exceptions and other jerry-riggings that Siegel criticizes in the Mother Jones list; he simply keeps track of mass shootings that took place in public and were not a byproduct of some other crime, such as a robbery. And rather than beginning with a search of news accounts, with all the gaps and distortions that entails, he starts with the FBI's Supplementary Homicide Reports to find out when and where mass killings happened, then looks for news reports to fill in the details. According to Duwe, the annual number of mass public shootings declined from 1999 to 2011, spiked in 2012, then regressed to the mean.

Finally, a note on why this matters. Violent crime rates have been moving downward for decades now, and mass shootings—by any definition—are a very rare phenomenon. I've heard arguments from one direction that say there's no point in putting such a small risk under a microscope when the most pressing threats to people's lives lie elsewhere. I've heard arguments from another direction that say even one crime this horrible is too many, and that the effect of noting how infrequently it happens is just to discourage people from trying to prevent it.

To the first set of arguments, I say that when the press and politicians present a problem like this as a rising crisis, it's worthwhile to see whether it is indeed rising. To the second set of arguments, I say that absolutely nothing I've said here means we shouldn't try to prevent future mass murders. Plane crashes are extremely rare, but airlines still look for ways to make them even less likely. If a measure genuinely makes people safer without creating an intolerable trade-off, I'm for it.

Such measures are most likely to be incremental changes adopted at particular places (such as schools) and then imitated elsewhere, not big anti-crime bills rushed into law by national politicians eager to be seen Doing Something. But there may well be ways federal or state officials can make that experimentation and imitation easier. Good ideas are good—and bad ideas are bad—whether or not mass shootings are getting more common.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Instapundit » Blog Archive » ASHE SCHOW: ‘Yes means yes’ laws also hurt women. “Studies have shown that men are far less likely…

Instapundit » ASHE SCHOW: ‘Yes means yes’ laws also hurt women. “Studies have shown that men are far less likely…


ASHE SCHOW: ‘Yes means yes’ laws also hurt women. “Studies have shown that men are far less likely to report sexual assault than women, but with a law like this, where the choice could be between seeing their futures ruined by an accusation or coming forward with an accusation — young men would likely choose the latter option. If the law remains as it is written, then women would become just as disadvantaged. If, as opponents predict, the law leads to an increase of accusations, anyone accused — man or woman — would be hurt by the lack of basic due process rights.” Since in our culture, women generally feel privileged to touch men without prior consent, one would actually expect more women to be guilty.

It may be time to herd college-age (and soon, high-school and grade-school age?) men into "consciousness raising" sessions where they will learn to file accusations against women who touch them without their consent.

FIRE shreds Ezra Klein and denial of due process to college men

FIRE shreds Ezra Klein and denial of due process to college men

So I’m sympathetic to the case against Yes Means Yes. But as I read more about the bill, talked to more lawyers about it, talked to more of the women in my life about it, and particularly after I read Amanda Taub’s piece outlining the broader benefits for an affirmative consent culture, I changed my mind. In part, I initially misunderstood what the Yes Means Yes law does, and doesn’t, do. But I also approached the law with too much status quo bias. It was too easy for me to see the disruptions and dangers embedded in the change and too hard for me to see the rolling catastrophe of the status quo.
Actually, Klein did not misunderstand what the law does, as discussed above. But here you see the key reason he supports it anyway: He firmly (and presumably sincerely) believes that there should be a cultural shift on how sex takes place on campus and maybe even in the larger society. And calling for a cultural shift is fine; indeed, there are plenty of other folks who have ideas how the culture on campus should be.
But a core difference between them and supporters of the California law like Klein is that the latter are comfortable with enforcing their desired culture shift not just through the power of the state but by using that power to degrade the rights of the accused. As blogger Fredrik deBoer put it: “As long as we’re making an omelet, am I right?”
Klein and others need to have some awareness that this is not simply a tweaking of the concept of consent; it’s another battle in America’s seemingly unending culture war. That’s why the debate around California’s law has gotten so ugly so quickly.

=============

FIRE’s main concern, of course, is due process, which Klein addresses under the heading “Yes Means Yes and due process.” He begins:
The idea of “due process” kept coming up in replies.
Fancy that.
Jonathan Chait, for instance, worries that colleges are “trampling due process,” and links to this Judith Shulevitz piece, which isn’t about the Yes Means Yes law. One charming e-mailer wrote, “No due process? Really? I’m a lawyer and now you’re on my hit list.” This is either a deep misunderstanding of the Yes Means Yes law, of how colleges enforce their rules, or both.
Is it? Do tell.
The Yes Means Yes law just doesn’t have much to do with procedural due process. Due process guarantees certain rights around most legal proceedings, like the right to a public trial and an impartial jury. But the Yes Means Yes law isn’t about legal proceedings. It’s about college hearings. It doesn’t change criminal proceedings at all.
Klein’s flip reminder that college tribunals are not “legal proceedings” is a glib way of patting concerned citizens on the head and telling us we shouldn’t care if colleges have set up kangaroo courts. Due process is the normative idea that a disciplinary system must work fairly, consistently, and impartially to arrive at just results. It’s not confined solely to the legal sphere—at least, it shouldn’t be, if we as a society care about fundamental fairness and prefer justice to arbitrary and capricious decision-making.
As the Supreme Court wrote in Goss v. Lopez, a case about high school students in Ohio who had been suspended for up to 10 days with virtually no due process,
the total exclusion from the educational process for more than a trivial period, and certainly if the suspension is for 10 days, is a serious event in the life of the suspended child. Neither the property interest in educational benefits temporarily denied nor the liberty interest in reputation, which is also implicated, is so insubstantial that suspensions may constitutionally be imposed by any procedure the school chooses, no matter how arbitrary. 419 U.S. 565, 576 (1975).
Expulsion from a public college and a finding that a person committed sexual assault is surely a much more “serious event” than a sub-10-day suspension from high school and implicates the “liberty interest in reputation” exponentially more than a high school suspension.
Here’s a thought experiment that may illuminate the issue: If Ezra Klein were deemed a rapist by his college and expelled from school with that on his transcript, would he have been been hired and paid to blog by The Washington Post, become famous doing so, drawn profiles in major magazines complete with photo shoots, and used that fame to springboard himself to co-founder of a well-known website? To ask that question is to answer it, but I see no sign that Klein has asked.
Further, we really need to dispense with the idea that college tribunals are not miniature justice systems, even if they’re not courts of law.
Generally speaking, they involve an allegation, an investigation, a hearing, the presentation of evidence (however defined), fact-finding, the possibility of a sentence that can change the course of the accused’s life (in severe ways), and an appeals process. And when the allegations concern sexual assault, college tribunals just happen to be deciding whether someone committed conduct that constitutes a felony crime. Due process is most certainly a legitimate concern.
Klein continues:
The issue here goes far beyond Yes Means Yes, and into a harder question: what process should colleges uses for sexual harassment hearings? College hearings do not carry the full guarantee of due process that, say, criminal legal proceedings do. This is, for the record, something the courts have looked at: there were some very basic due process protections laid down in Goss v. Lopez, but, since then, courts have judged whether a student’s rights were violated on a case-by-case basis, and they have notably refused to say that all universities, or even all public universities, need to give students the full due process rights that the criminal or civil systems offer. This is why, for instance, students aren’t guaranteed legal representation in plagiarism hearings.
Klein is unwittingly making the case against colleges handling felony crimes like rape here. College disciplinary systems came into being precisely to handle academic infractions like plagiarism or cheating. Indeed, they are exactly the right institutions to handle those kinds of allegations, as they have the specialized expertise.

==========

When it comes to rape, however, college tribunals are terrifyingly out of their depth and have displayed what can only be called “anti-expertise.” The Wall Street Journal’s James Taranto recounted an example of how this worked in one case at Auburn University. Actual kangaroos could not have done a worse job of adjudicating that case.
But Klein seems to think that the law will help that process rather than hurt it:
There’s a related, and serious, concern here that the process by which colleges manage sexual assault cases is a mess. In many cases, the accused lack very basic protections (the Harvard Law School’s faculty just published an open lettercondemning Harvard’s new sexual assault policies on these grounds). The Yes Means Yes law interacts with these processes a bit, but mostly by telling colleges to clarify them, which will, in many cases, be an improvement.
It will? California’s law effectively places the onus on the accused to prove to a college panel or a single administrator that they received continuous consent to any and every sexual act in question. If a student can’t produce that proof, he or she is a rapist.
It doesn’t matter whether the accuser did want the sexual act to happen, it only matters whether the accused can convince the school that they indicated as much. If he or she can’t, they’re a rapist. It’s hard to see how this can be described as fair, even if the procedures are scrupulously followed.
What it doesn’t do is somehow rip rights away from the accused. You could have a hearing process that is very similar to the process used in civil trials within the context of the Yes Means Yes law, complete with guaranteed legal representation.
You could, but you don’t, and Klein knows it. Worse, the affirmative consent bill he supports could have fixed that problem, but it didn’t.
For instance, students are nearly always denied competent representation, except in North Carolina, and that exception is in large part due to FIRE’s advocacy. Judge Henry Friendly, in a famous (among lawyers) 1975 article, laid out the basics of what it means to have a fair process when it comes to government hearings. They are:
  • An unbiased tribunal.
  • Notice of the proposed action and the grounds asserted for it.
  • Opportunity to present reasons why the proposed action should not be taken.
  • The right to present evidence, including the right to call witnesses.
  • The right to know opposing evidence.
  • The right to cross-examine adverse witnesses.
  • A decision based exclusively on the evidence presented.
  • Opportunity to be represented by counsel.
  • Requirement that the tribunal prepare a record of the evidence presented.
  • Requirement that the tribunal prepare written findings of fact and reasons for its decision.
FIRE has seen colleges violate every one of these principles, and often many of them at once, in our 15 years of handling due process cases. The Harvard Law faculty members are concerned about these as well. This is not a fringe concern or one to be easily dismissed.
There’s no contradiction between a fair and clear process, real protections for the accused, and an affirmative consent standard — and there’s no reason one shouldn’t support all simultaneously, as I do.
A somewhat separate issues that the Yes Means Yes law also directs California colleges to use the “preponderance of evidence” standard, which is what’s used in most civil trials. But that’s not much of a change: the federal government hasdirected colleges to use that standard back in 2011, though not all of them have complied.
The preponderance of evidence standard is a lower standard than is used in criminal trials. But as the federal government argued in 2011, it’s the standard that the Supreme Court laid down for civil discrimination suits under the Civil Rights Act, and it’s the standard the Office of Civil Rights uses when looking into Title IX violations.
It’s hard to imagine that there are “real protections for the accused” when the law Klein’s supporting not only requires that you be able to prove you had consent at every stage of sexual activity or at some undefined interval, but also lowers the burden of proof so that a tribunal only 51 percent certain of your guilt has to find you guilty of rape anyway.

============

The reason the criminal standard is so tough to meet is that people go to jail in criminal trials, they get the death penalty in them, they become registered sex offenders through them. The worst a college can do is expel you.
Yes, they can expel you, deny you further education at any other state institution (in some cases, like Caleb Warner’s), and make sure your transcript and your records, which are accessible to schools, employers, and the government, say that you’re a rapist. And I assure you that those notifications do not elaborate on the many due process failures of the university in making those findings.
That’s why colleges have never had to meet the criminal standard when deciding whether to expel a student for plagiarism or vandalism — and yet people don’t seem overly exercised about those verdicts. Why is sexual assault different, given that the punishment is the same?
Is this question serious? It’s because you have been found guilty of rape, not plagiarism or vandalism! If the punishment for murder were reduced to one year in prison, people would still treat murderers worse than vandals who got a year in prison, even though the punishments are the same. Come on.
Are you sure you want make it impossible for colleges to expel potential rapists where the preponderance of evidence shows them to be responsible for repeated sexual assaults, but it can’t quite be proven beyond a reasonable doubt? That’s not a standard, for instance, that we think employers should meet.
First, colleges aren’t students’ employers. Students pay them, not vice versa. So this is a bogus equivalency. But expulsion is not the panacea so many advocates make it out to be.
The best case scenario is that the expelled rapist is free to victimize people (generally, women) off campus. And on many campuses, there’s nothing preventing those expelled from coming back onto campus long enough to victimize students again—it’s not like they’re wearing a tracking ankle bracelet or being shadowed 24/7 by campus cops.
That’s why colleges should be leaving matters of public safety and criminal justice to the criminal justice system, which actually has the power to get rapists off the streets.
Colleges can provide plenty of services, from counseling to escorts to accommodations in scheduling or living, to help rape victims. But they can’t put the rapist in jail. If there’s a problem with the criminal justice system’s ability to achieve justice in rape cases, then that’sthe system that needs reforming by legislators, not the campus justice system.

Yes means Yes | affirmative consent | Ezra Klein | assault

Yes means Yes | affirmative consent | Ezra Klein | assault

I’ve written previously about California’s new “Yes Means Yes” law, which codifies a strict definition of “affirmative consent” as it applies to students on college campuses. It’s a terrible bill, but some liberals are touting its absolute failure to address any real problems as its greatest achievement. A group of professors at Harvard Law School recently published a joint letter in the Boston Globe begging the university to rethink its implementation of a similar standard:
We call on the university to withdraw this sexual harassment policy and begin the challenging project of carefully thinking through what substantive and procedural rules would best balance the complex issues involved in addressing sexual conduct and misconduct in our community. The goal must not be simply to go as far as possible in the direction of preventing anything that some might characterize as sexual harassment. The goal must instead be to fully address sexual harassment while at the same time protecting students against unfair and inappropriate discipline, honoring individual relationship autonomy, and maintaining the values of academic freedom.
28 professors from one of the finest law schools on the planet believe that these laws go to far. They’re not just a change in policy; they redefine the meaning of “sexual assault,” and “consent.” They’re a gross overreach into the lives of students that flies in the face of the basic concepts of justice and due process. Chief Voxsplainer Ezra Klein recently penned an article explaining why he believes affirmative consent regulatory overreach—and subsequent overregulation of the sex lives of young Californians—will eliminate the alleged culture of “sexual entitlement” on college campuses. In Ezra Klein’s illiberal utopia, we achieve that goal by making examples out of men whose only crime is that they are male:
The Yes Means Yes law is trying to change a culture of sexual entitlement. That culture of sexual entitlement is built on fear; fear that the word “no” will lead to violence, or that the complaint you bring to the authorities will be be ignored, or that the hearing will become a venue for your humiliation, as the man who assaulted you details all the ways you were asking for it. “No Means No” has created a world where women are afraid. To work, “Yes Means Yes” needs to create a world where men are afraid. For that reason, the law is only worth the paper it’s written on if some of the critics’ fears come true. Critics worry that colleges will fill with cases in which campus boards convict young men (and, occasionally, young women) of sexual assault for genuinely ambiguous situations. Sadly, that’s necessary for the law’s success. It’s those cases — particularly the ones that feel genuinely unclear and maybe even unfair, the ones that become lore in frats and cautionary tales that fathers e-mail to their sons — that will convince men that they better Be Pretty Damn Sure.
This idea that a law must first victimize the innocent in order to achieve social change flies in the face of the original concepts of justice. Jonathan Chait at New York Magazine points this out; it’s not that we expect campus disciplinary proceedings to exactly mirror judicial proceedings, but there is an inherent expectation that those sitting as judge and jury are there to suss out the facts, not settle the score in the Battle of the Sexes. Chait argues that this is exactly the case—that fans of this new law “[argue] for false convictions as a conscious strategy in order to strike fear into the innocent.”
And indeed, the notion of presumption of innocence has been decried, to me, in person, as "just what I'm talking about" as "rape culture".

I hate the phrase “hookup culture,” because it implies there’s some sort of implicit agreement between the sexes that by default, it’s going down; but the fact is that this sort of culture exists, at least in some fashion, and the result can either go one of two ways: you can either have a great time and leave the next morning happy (if not fulfilled,) or you can leave feeling sloppy, and dirty, and more than a little upset with what happened. Laws like Yes Means Yes assume for all of us that when this kind of sex happens, it happens towomen. They assume that women as sexual creatures are not only incapable of making choices, but will by default crumble under the fallout of their bad ones. At best, it is as Heather Mac Donald called it “neo-Victorian.” At worst, it is a mindset thatactually sets back women/feminism/the human condition back into the stone ages. What the philosophy behind “Yes Means Yes” means—and what Klein believes, even if he doesn’t realize it—is that a woman is only empowered by her ability to decide post facto that it is actually menwho are responsible for her now-regretted choice to have sex. In the real world, you would wake up from your encounter with Ted, toss the guy a water bottle, and throw him out with his pants still in his hands. You would sit on the couch and dial your friend and talk about how you’re going to shower for the next five hours because you drunkenly hooked up with some guy named Ted. Then you would move on with your life, because you are a grown woman who can deal with her choices. In Ezra Klein’s world, you would wake up from your encounter with Ted, toss the guy a water bottle, and throw him out with his pants still in his hands. You would sit on the couch and dial your campus counselor to discuss your options—as opposed to just doing some self-searching about why you chose to become so intimate with a stranger.
Did he force you? No.
Did he threaten you? No.
Were you into it? …Maybe?
Were you drunk? Definitely. I was definitely drunk.
Bingo. Now, instead of going to class on Monday, Ted is going to be having a very special conversation with a panel of bureaucrats about the consensual sex he had on Saturday. Ted is no longer a student. Ted, as it turns out, is a rapist without ever having committed a rape; and you, by default, are a victim who has pressed the statutory rewind button and changed the game after the fact. The Harvard professors understand exactly what these laws mean, and why Ezra Klein is so hopelessly wrong in his analysis of them. “Yes Means Yes” doesn’t institute a power shift; “Yes Means Yes” changes the rules and picks a winner in a hypothetical sexual assault scenario forced into reality. This isn’t justice. This isn’t empowerment. This is vindication on behalf of a particular class of women who have taken advantage of their sexual liberty, and realized that it’s not all it’s cracked up to be.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

College Sexual Assault Rules Trample Rights of Accused Campus Rapists | New Republic


 I was curious to know what a lawyer outside the university system would make of one of these codes. So I sent the document to Robin Steinberg, a public defender and a feminist.
A few hours later, Steinberg wrote back in alarm. She had read the document with colleagues at the Bronx legal-aid center she runs. They were horrified, she saidnot because Columbia still hadn’t sufficiently protected survivors of assault, as some critics charge, but because its procedures revealed a cavalier disregard for the civil rights of people accused of rape, assault, and other gender-based crimes. “We are never sending our boys to college,” she wrote.
Columbia’s safeguards for the accused are better than most. For instance, it allows both accuser and accused to have a lawyer at a hearing, and, if asked, will locate free counsel. By contrast, Harvard, which issued a new code in July, holds investigations but not hearings and does not offer to obtain independent legal assistance. But Steinberg, like most people, hadn’t realized how far the rules governing sexual conduct on campus have strayed from any commonsense understanding of justice.
Most colleges that do allow lawyers into sexual-misconduct hearings or interrogations do not permit them to speak, though they may pass notes. Students on both sides must speak for themselves. This presents a serious problem for a young man charged with rape (and in the vast majority of campus cases, the accused are men). On one hand, if he doesn’t defend himself, he’ll be at a disadvantage. On the other, if he is also caught up in a criminal case, anything he says in a campus procedure can be used against him in court. Neither side may cross-examine witnesses to establish contradictions in their testimony. A school may withhold the identity of an accuser from the accused if she requests anonymity (though it may choose not to). Guilt or innocence hinges on a “preponderance” of evidence, a far lower standard than the “beyond a reasonable doubt” test that prevails in courtrooms. At Harvard, the Title IX enforcement office acts as cop, prosecutor, judge, and juryand also hears the appeals. This conflation of possibly conflicting roles is “fundamentally not due process,” says Janet Halley, a Harvard Law School professor whose areas of expertise include feminist legal theory and procedural law.....So what should colleges do about sexual assault? In February, RAINN, the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network, wrote to the White House task force to argue that complaints should be dealt with by the police. Victims’ rights advocates counter that the criminal justice system is insensitive to rape victims and bad at securing convictions. Either way, universities view it as their right and educational mission to create internal justice systems for their communities. The quickest fix would be to upgrade their procedures: to ensure that the rights of both parties are equally protected and that every administrator or faculty member involved is properly trained. If nobody trusts the processand right now, nobody appears tocampus unrest will only grow.
What’s happening at universities represents an often necessary effort to recategorize once-acceptable behaviors as unacceptable. But the government, via Title IX, is effectively acting on the notion popularized in the 1970s and ’80s by Andrea Dworkin and Catharine MacKinnon that male domination is so pervasive that women need special protection from the rigors of the law. Men, as a class, have more power than women, but American law rests on the principle that individuals have rights even when accused of doing bad things. And American liberalism has long rejected the notion that those rights may be curtailed even for a noble cause. “We need to take into account our obligations to due process not because we are soft on rapists and other exploiters of women,” says Halley, but because “the danger of holding an innocent person responsible is real.”

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

George Zimmerman | Trayvon Martin | Disobeyed Police

George Zimmerman | Trayvon Martin | Disobeyed Police

Mistakes happen, of course, so I promptly sent off an email to Professor Coker alerting her to the error in the certainty that she would wish to issue a correction.  That email follows below.  I only sent it an hour or so ago, which is far to little time to expect a response of any kind, but should I receive a response I will naturally share it.
Dear Professor Coker,
I recently came across your Foreword for the University of Miami Law Review Summer 2014 edition, dealing with issues around Stand-Your-Ground law and other aspects of self-defense law. I myself am an attorney with a particularized interest in self-defense law, and found your article very interesting.
I did note one substantive factual error, however, that I know you would want me to bring to your attention for purposes of correction. It particularly references the Zimmerman trial.
On page 955 you write:
“The dispatcher advised him not to pursue the teenager, but Zimmerman disregarded this warning and set out on foot to follow the youth.82″
Your footnote #82 comments:
82. See id. Alafair Burke argues that had the court granted the prosecution’s request for a first
aggressor instruction, the trial outcome might have been different. See Alafair Burke, What You
May Not Know About the Zimmerman Verdict: The Evolution of a Jury Instruction, HUFFINGTON
POST (July 15, 2013, 11:19 AM), available at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/alafair-burke/
george-zimmerman-jury-instructions_b_3596685.html. See also FLA. STAT. § 776.041 (2013)
(“The justification described in the preceding sections . . . is not available to a person who . . . (2)
[i]nitially provokes the use of force against himself . . . .”).
The primary substantive error in your text is the mistaken order. You have the sequence as:
(1) The dispatcher advised Zimmerman not to pursue the teenager.
(2) Zimmerman disregarded this warning and set out on foot to follow the youth.
Self-defense cases are always exquisitely fact sensitive, and the sequence of events is of course critical. In fact, you’ve placed the sequence of events backwards, and stripped them of context that likely played a critical role in the jury’s conception of that night’s events.
In fact, the sequence of events as they actually occurred is:
(1) Zimmerman informed the dispatcher that Martin had fled from sight around the corner of a building.
(2) The dispatcher asked Zimmerman where Martin was running to.
(3) Unable to observe Martin from his vehicle, Zimmerman exited the vehicle and set out on foot to look around the corner of the building.
(4) The dispatcher, sensing that Zimmerman had exited his vehicle, asked Zimmerman if he was following Martin.
(5) Zimmerman affirmed that he was.
(6) The dispatcher advised Zimmerman, “We don’t need you to do that.”
(7) Zimmerman responded, “OK,” and began returning back to his vehicle.
On the way back to his vehicle Zimmerman concluded his call with 911. It was then that Zimmerman and Martin had their fateful encounter.
That my recounting of events is accurate is readily confirmable by listening to the 911 recording of Zimmerman speaking with the dispatcher. It is available from many sources, but for your convenience you can also listen to it here:
That post also has a transcript of the relevant portion of the recording.
As you can see, there’s a very good explanation for why the court did not grant the prosecution’s request for a first aggressor instruction. There is zero evidence–literally, none–to support a claim that Zimmerman was a first aggressor. He did not disregard dispatcher advice to not pursue the teenager, quite the contrary–he immediately complied. Indeed, it seems likely that the only reason Zimmerman got out of his vehicle to follow Martin in the first place was in the reasonable belief that the dispatcher was asking him to do so in order to ascertain Martin’s direction of travel.
Even if, however, Zimmerman HAD followed Martin in disregard of police instructions I am unaware of any state’s law that holds that merely following someone, absent malice (of which there was also no evidence) is sufficient to qualify as a first aggressor.
Frankly, the notion that a “first aggressor instruction would have saved the day” is just silly, once the actual facts of the case are known.
In any case, clients call. Again, I enjoyed your article, and I’m confident you’ll wish to make that correction.
Of course, it goes without saying that if you have actual evidence in support of your statement, I’ll adjust my understanding of the case accordingly.
Best regards,
Andrew
Andrew F. Branca
Attorney at Law (MA)
www.lawofselfdefense.com
@LawSelfDefense
Facebook: Law of Self Defense
I guess we’ll have to see what, if anything, happens.

Bees and pesticides - Matt Ridley

Bees and pesticides - Matt Ridley

The European Union’s addiction to the precautionary principle — which says in effect that the risks of new technologies must be measured against perfection, not against the risks of existing technologies — has caused many perverse policy decisions. It may now have produced a result that has proved so utterly foot-shooting, so swiftly, that even Eurocrats might notice the environmental disaster they have created.
All across southeast Britain this autumn, crops of oilseed rape are dying because of infestation by flea beetles. The direct cause of the problem is the two-year ban on pesticides called neonicotinoids brought in by the EU over British objections at the tail end of last year. The ban was justified on the precautionary ground that neonics might be causing the mass decline of bees. There is, by the way, no mass decline of bees, as I shall explain.
Neonics are primarily used as a seed dressing: seeds are soaked in the chemical so that the plant grows up protected from pests and — crucially — often does not need to be sprayed. The beauty of this is that it targets pests, such as flea beetles, that eat the plant, but not the bystanders such as other insects. In the laboratory, bees exposed to high doses of neonics do indeed die or become confused. So they should — that’s what the word “insecticide” means.
Yet large-scale field studies and real world evidence consistently demonstrate that rape pollen does not contain a high enough dose to have an impact on bee colonies. The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs report on the subject concluded that lab studies used to justify the EU ban severely overdosed their bees and that bees are not affected by neonics under normal conditions. Australian regulators claim that neonics have actually improved the environment for bees by replacing older pesticides. And in the US, the Department of Agriculture and the Environmental Protection Agency have so far resisted calls to ban neonics for much the same reason.
Even though there was literally no good science linking neonics to bee deaths in fields, they were banned anyway for use on flowering crops in Europe. Friends of the Earth, which lobbied for the ban, opined that this would make no difference to farmers. Dave Goulson, a bee activist and author of a fine book on bumblebees called A Sting in the Tale, was widely quoted as saying that farmers were wasting their money on neonics anyway; though how he knew this was not clear. Presumably he thinks farmers are stupid.
Well, the environmentalists were wrong. The loss of  the rape cropthis autumn is approaching 50 per cent in  Hampshire and not much less in other parts of the country. Farmers in Germany, the EU’s largest producer of rape, are also reporting widespread damage. Since rape is one of the main flower crops, providing huge amounts of pollen and nectar for bees, this will hurt wild bee numbers as well as farmers’ livelihoods.
Farmers are instead reluctantly using pyrethroids. These older insecticides are less effective against pests (flea beetles are becoming resistant to them), more dangerous to other insects, especially threatening to aquatic invertebrates when they seep into streams and less safe to handle. So the result will be more insect deaths. In a panic, Defra has just announced that it will allow the use of two neonics, but — and here you have to laugh or you would cry — both are sprayed on the flowering crop, rather than used to dress seed! So they definitely can harm bees.
The ban was brought in entirely to placate green lobby groups, which have privileged and direct access to unelected European officials in policymaking. They hotted up their followers, using the misleading lab studies, to bombard politicians on the topic. The former health commissioner, Tonio Borg, felt so inundated by emails that he had to do something. Owen Paterson, as environment secretary, received 85,000 emails to his parliamentary address alone. Yet he warned colleagues that a ban was unjustified and would be counterproductive. He was  right.
Back to bees. What decline? The number of honeybee hives in the world is at a record high. The number in Europe is higher than it was in the early 1990s when neonics were introduced. Hive mortality in Britain was unusually low in the year before the neonic ban. It’s a myth that honeybees are in dire straits.
That’s not to say beekeepers don’t have  problems. There was a severe problem eight years ago caused by the mysterious colony collapse disorder — a phenomenon that has happened throughout history and seems once again to have disappeared. Greens tried to blame it on genetically modified crops, but it happened in countries with no GM crops. The battle against the varroa mite continues to be hard. A newly virulent strain of tobacco ringspot virus has made the rare leap from infecting plants to infecting bees.
What about wild bees, and bumblebees in particular? Having read again and again of the terrible decline of bumblebees, I set out to find some graphs or tables. I came away empty-handed. In Britain some species contracted their ranges and some expanded during the 20th century. The specialist species seem to have suffered while the generalists have thrived. But claims of a continuing fall in the abundance of bumblebees over the past 20 years seem to be entirely anecdotal.
As Dr Goulson recounts in his book, it’s hard to study bumblebee nests because so many get destroyed by badgers. The huge expansion of the badger population in recent years cannot have helped the populations of their favourite prey.
Full disclosure: I have a farm. My oilseed rape is looking all right this year, but the farmer is not happy at having to use pyrethroids and nor am I. The local beekeeper is hopping mad about the neonic ban, which he thinks has done more harm than good. And he’s genuinely worried about a new threat to honeybees from the small hive beetle, which is spreading in Italy, a major source of honeybees and queens for Britain. Currently there is free movement of potentially contaminated bees from Italy into the UK. In short, nobody’s taking any precautions about the real threats.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Judith Curry: The Global Warming Statistical Meltdown - WSJ - WSJ


Human-caused warming depends not only on increases in greenhouse gases but also on how “sensitive” the climate is to these increases. Climate sensitivity is defined as the global surface warming that occurs when the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere doubles. If climate sensitivity is high, then we can expect substantial warming in the coming century as emissions continue to increase. If climate sensitivity is low, then future warming will be substantially lower, and it may be several generations before we reach what the U.N. considers a dangerous level, even with high emissions.
The IPCC’s latest report (published in 2013) concluded that the actual change in 70 years if carbon-dioxide concentrations double, called the transient climate response, is likely in the range of 1 to 2.5 degrees Celsius. Most climate models have transient climate response values exceeding 1.8 degrees Celsius. But the IPCC report notes the substantial discrepancy between recent observation-based estimates of climate sensitivity and estimates from climate models.
Nicholas Lewis and I have just published a study in Climate Dynamics that shows the best estimate for transient climate response is 1.33 degrees Celsius with a likely range of 1.05-1.80 degrees Celsius. Using an observation-based energy-balance approach, our calculations used the same data for the effects on the Earth’s energy balance of changes in greenhouse gases, aerosols and other drivers of climate change given by the IPCC’s latest report.
We also estimated what the long-term warming from a doubling of carbon-dioxide concentrations would be, once the deep ocean had warmed up. Our estimates of sensitivity, both over a 70-year time-frame and long term, are far lower than the average values of sensitivity determined from global climate models that are used for warming projections. Also our ranges are narrower, with far lower upper limits than reported by the IPCC’s latest report. Even our upper limits lie below the average values of climate models.
Our paper is not an outlier. More than a dozen other observation-based studies have found climate sensitivity values lower than those determined using global climate models, including recent papers published in Environmentrics (2012),Nature Geoscience (2013) andEarth Systems Dynamics (2014). These new climate sensitivity estimates add to the growing evidence that climate models are running “too hot.” Moreover, the estimates in these empirical studies are being borne out by the much-discussed “pause” or “hiatus” in global warming—the period since 1998 during which global average surface temperatures have not significantly increased.
This pause in warming is at odds with the 2007 IPCC report, which expected warming to increase at a rate of 0.2 degrees Celsius per decade in the early 21st century. The warming hiatus, combined with assessments that the climate-model sensitivities are too high, raises serious questions as to whether the climate-model projections of 21st-century temperatures are fit for making public-policy decisions.

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Citizen journalists don’t need “Press Credentials” — but that badge may help

Citizen journalists don’t need “Press Credentials” — but that badge may help

...The ACLU also cautions against breaking any unrelated laws, like trespassing, while photographing or videotaping. Pretty simple, right?Yet the police harassment of citizens with cameras or video recorders continues. About the only thing that police will respect– sometimes – is a display of press credentials.& Enter the Constitution First Amendment Press Association, or CFAPA. Started by James Rawles, survivalblogger and author of several
post-apocalyptic best-selling books, the CFAPA website will issue free press credentials and a press badge.
Here is how it works: go to the CFAPA website, found at cfapa.org, read and agree to the Constitutional Journalist’s pledge and member terms. These essentially spell out ethical rules for journalists and provide indemnity for CFAPA. Then download and fill in your name and date of issuance for your press credentials and badge. The press badge would also need a recent photo before you laminate it. That’s it!
Even for someone who does not intend to seek and record the actions of the police in public, it is good to have the CFAPA press credential and press badge handy, just in case. And besides, they are free. CFAPA operates on donations, or sales at its Amazon store, which, humorously, lists for sale trench coats and fedora hats. Presumably, wearing this will enable the citizen journalist to look like one of the reporters in the movie His Girl Friday. “We don’t take ourselves too seriously,” Rawles told me.
But the CFAPA Amazon store also contains more serious items like press badge holders, cameras, voice recorders, books on reporting style and dealing with the police.

Monday, October 06, 2014

Democrats losing long war against voter ID | WashingtonExaminer.com

Democrats losing long war against voter ID | WashingtonExaminer.com

You would not know it if you read only the New York Times or watched only MSNBC, but the Left and President Obama are losing their fight to block the widespread introduction of voter ID cards. In courts of law and the court of public opinion, the issue is gaining traction. With few exceptions, liberal pressure groups have lost lawsuits in state after state, with courts tossing out their faux claims that ID laws are discriminatory, unconstitutional or suppress minority voting.

Polls show that a large majorities including Republicans, Democrats, whites, blacks and Hispanics support voter ID as a common-sense reform. The myth that voter ID is a new Jim Crow-type effort to reduce minority voting is widely rejected for the rubbish that it is — except by academia and the glitterati of the mainstream media. One Rasmussen poll found that 72 percent of the public believes all voters should prove their identities before being allowed to cast ballots, and also that when it comes to voter ID, “opinions have not changed much over the years.”

Properly drafted voter ID laws, with safeguards against absentee ballot fraud and strict limits on laws that allow people to register and vote on Election Day, improve public confidence in elections. Even though in-person voter fraud isn’t rampant, it is easy for fraudsters to commit it without getting caught. New York City’s Department of Investigation last year detailed how its undercover agents claimed at 63 polling places to be individuals who were in fact dead, had moved out of town, or who were in jail. In 61 instances, 97 percent of the time, they were allowed to vote. (To avoid skewing results, they voted only for nonexistent write-in candidates.) How did the city’s Board of Elections respond? Did it immediately probe and reform them sloppy procedures? Not at all. It instead demanded that the investigators be prosecuted. Most officials don’t want to admit how vulnerable election systems are, but privately they express worry that close elections could be flipped by fraud.

Take Al Franken’s 2008 victory over incumbent Republican Sen. Norm Coleman. A watchdog group matched criminal records with the voting rolls and discovered that 1,099 felons had cast ballots illegally. A local TV news reporter found that nine of the 10 felons he interviewed had voted for Franken. State law allows prosecutions only of those who admit knowingly committing voter fraud, and 177 were convicted. Franken’s victory margin was just 312 votes. It gave Democrats their 60th Senate seat, creating the filibuster-proof majority that helped make Obamacare law.

Many good people are mistakenly convinced that voter ID laws and other measures to buttress the integrity of elections are discriminatory. Many also say fraud isn’t a serious issue. Rather than fighting such laws, however, they should be working to ensure that everyone can easily obtain an ID.

There is sharp disagreement over how many people lack proper identification. Former Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell, who is himself black, pointed out in the Wall Street Journal that “one of the most often-cited factoids — something that sounds authoritative but is not fact-based — is the NAACP’s claim that 25 percent of black American adults lack a government-issued photo ID. Think about that for a moment. This would mean that millions of African-American men and women are unable to legally drive, cash a check, board an airliner or participate in everyday activities of modern life.” Hyperbole of this sort perpetuates the patronizing view that minorities are helpless victims. Liberals say Blackwell doesn’t understand how high the barriers are for some people who lack ID. But if he were really wrong, it is difficult to see why so few voters apply for a free ID in states with such requirements.

GUN WATCH: Charles Cooke at National Review Writes About Threats based on Gun Watch Picture

GUN WATCH: Charles Cooke at National Review Writes About Threats based on Gun Watch Picture

Charles C. W. Cooke writes about it at National Review.com.   I would have been happy to have him use the photograph, with attribution, but perhaps, because the MDA page did not give attribution, he never contacted me.

He does a good job of covering the issue.  I would have been happy to give him more background.   From nationalreview.com:

Reacting to a photograph of a man standing at a checkout with a handgun holstered upon his hip, mom-who-demands-action Joyce Ward asks, “Why weren’t the police called immediately?” And “why,” Ward continues, “wasn’t he shot by the police for having a weapon”? Fellow poster LisaMcLogan Shaheen has a similar inquiry, wondering, “Why hasn’t someone called 911 so the cops can gun him down?” Others go a little further, proposing that they might help their cause along if they were actively to bring about an altercation. “Every time I see someone with a gun in a store I will call 911,” Jennifer Decker vows, “they’ll get tired of that right quick!!!” Even that plan is too limited for Ann Marie. “Just call the police every time you see someone with one,” she counsels, “the police will get sick of it eventually or have a run in with one of these clowns and then things will change.”
I am the person in the  checkout that they are discussing, so the threats are of more than academic interest to me.   If you  wish to read the original story, it is at this link.   To understand why the people making these threats are doing so, I have found this article by Sarah Thompson, M.D. to be informative.   For those of you who do not wish to read the whole article, she discusses  projection, denial, reaction formation, and rage.  

Andy Puzder: Minimum Wage, Maximum Politics - WSJ - WSJ


Running the numbers....

The middle class and working poor are struggling. While the stock market soared to historic highs, the labor-participation rate dropped in September to 62.7%—the lowest since 1978—according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. More than six million people, BLS reports, are “not in the labor force” but “want a job now.”
Will a 40% minimum-wage increase improve this picture? No. Let’s examine how it would affect a restaurant franchisee, a typical small business owner attempting to run a profitable enterprise. My company, CKE Restaurants, has more than 200 franchisees running about 2,000 restaurants nationwide.
Our typical franchised restaurant employs 25 people and earns about $100,000 a year in pretax profit—about 8% of the restaurant’s $1.2 million annual sales. Our general managers, often also the store owners, are responsible for the success or failure of the business. They manage the employees and are in charge of a million-dollar facility. General managers are responsible for at least 25% of store profits. The other 24 employees are responsible for the remaining 75%, which comes to about $3,125 an employee. That is a generous estimate, as entry-level employees likely contribute less than their more experienced colleagues.
If minimum-wage crew members working 25 hours a week received a 40% raise, they would earn an additional $3,705 a year. That is $580 more than what the employee contributes to the restaurant’s profits.
The point is simple: The feds can mandate a higher wage, but some jobs don’t produce enough economic value to bear the increase. If government could transform unskilled entry-level positions into middle-income jobs, the Soviet Union would be today’s dominant world economy. Spain and Greece would be thriving.
But here’s what middle-class business owners, who live in the real world, will do when faced with a 40% increase in labor costs. They will cut jobs and rely more on technology. Such changes are already happening in banks, gas stations, grocery stores, airports and, more recently, restaurants. Almost every restaurant chain in the country from Applebee’s to McDonald’s is testing or already implementing automated ordering with tablets or kiosks.
The only other option is to raise prices. Yet it would be near-impossible to increase prices enough to offset the wage hike, particularly given today’s economic conditions. More important, price increases burden consumers, particularly those with low incomes who are supposed to be helped by a minimum-wage increase.

Sunday, October 05, 2014

The Obama Economy, In Eleven Charts | Power Line

The Obama Economy, In Eleven Charts | Power Line

Today the Republicans on the Senate Budget Committee put out a chart book that documents the Obama administration’s failures in economic policy. From the introduction:
The great economic tragedy of our time is the erosion of the American middle class. Millions of Americans find themselves locked out of the American Dream. Their wages are either flat or falling, even as the price of energy and goods surges; the labor force is shrinking; and the government stimulus which was claimed to lift the economy to prosperity has instead sunk the nation into a chasm of debt. This chart book highlights what working people know all too well: under President Obama, economic life today is much harder today than it was just a few years ago.
A day or two ago I saw a clip of a rather bewildered Wolf Blitzer asking Debbie Wasserman Schultz why President Obama doesn’t get more credit for the economy. Blitzer makes $3 million a year, so the economy probably looks pretty good to him. But the answer to his question is no mystery: for a large majority of Americans, the Obama economy has been a disaster.

Saturday, October 04, 2014

Sandwalk: Metabolism first and the origin of life

Sandwalk: Metabolism first and the origin of life

I don't have time to explain it all. Here's a teaser ...
At first sight, the idea that chemiosmosis is a very ancient means of energy transduction might seem counterintuitive. More familiar to many is the old (and popular) doctrine that the most ancient pathway of energy metabolism is a fermentation such as glycolysis [77], an idea that goes back at least to Haldane [2] and hence arose long before anyone had a clue that biological energy can be harnessed in a manner that does not involve substrate-level phosphorylations and ‘high-energy’ bonds [149,150]. In modern life, all biological energy in the form of ATP comes ultimately from chemiosmotic coupling [151], the process of charge separation from the inside of the cell to the outside, and the harnessing of that electrochemical gradient via a coupling factor, an ATPase of the rotor–stator-type. It was not until the 1970s that it became generally apparent that Mitchell [152] was right, his Nobel prize coming in 1978, and it is hard to say when it became clear to microbiologists that all fermentative organisms are derived from chemiosmotic ancestors. We also note that Mitchell's consideration of the problem of the origin of life introduced key concepts of his later chemiosmotic hypothesis, including a definition of life as process, and the idea of vectorial catalysis across a membrane boundary that is inseparable either from the environment or from the organism itself [153].

The maxim that glycolysis is ancient might be an artefact of experience, since it was the first pathway both to be discovered and that we learned in college; in that sense, it really is the oldest. When one suggests that chemiosmotic coupling in methanogens or acetogens might be ancient, many listeners and readers shy away, mainly because the pathways are unfamiliar and often entail dreaded cofactor names.



Sousa, F.L., Thiergart, T., Landan, G., Nelson-Sathi, S., Pereira, I. A., Allen, J.F., Lane, N. and Martin, W.F. (2013) Early bioenergetic evolution. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 368:20130088. [doi: 10.1098/rstb.2013.0088]

Raise the Minimum Wage? A Socratic Dialogue : The Freeman : Foundation for Economic Education

Raise the Minimum Wage? A Socratic Dialogue : The Freeman : Foundation for Economic Education


In his January 28 State of the Union speech, President Obama called upon the U.S. Congress to enact a hike in the hourly minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10. (The dime may have been added because a nice round number without a decimal would sound unscientific.) Economists have long argued that raising the cost of labor, especially for small and start-up businesses, reduces the demand for labor (as with anything else). But Congress may do it anyway—with the usual, oversized measure of self-righteous breast-beating about helping workers. Maybe what members of Congress need is not another lecture on the minimum wage from an economist, but rather an old-fashioned Socratic inquisition. If the old man himself were with us, here’s how I imagine one such dialogue might go...

Friday, October 03, 2014

Not Everyone Can Work for Costco - Bloomberg View

Not Everyone Can Work for Costco - Bloomberg View
But you need to explore safely. You can’t just plunge straight into advocating a $15-an-hour minimum wage; you need to know all the facts so you can make sound, educated decisions about your labor-policy activism. So let’s talk about efficiency wages and how they work.

When an employer loves his workers ... OK, never mind. Straight to the real talk.

Have you heard the legend of Henry Ford’s $5-a-day wage, how he paid his workers enough to buy one of his cars, and thereby unleashed a wave of prosperity upon America, the likes of which the world had never seen? Here’s the truth about that $5 wage: Ford Motor Co. didn’t pay those wages so the workers could afford the cars, because mathematically, that could not possibly have been profitable even if employees actually spent every cent they earned on the product they made. Which they never do.

Ford Motor Co. moved to a high wage because Ford Motor Co. had a turnover problem. Working on an assembly line is a fantastically awful job. Yes, I know it is fashionable to lament the decline of “good manufacturing jobs,” but what was good about those jobs was the steady, high wages. Much of the work Ford offered was unbearably tedious -- tightening the same bolt, over and over, for the majority of your waking hours. It’s about as entertaining as watching paint dry, only with a foreman yelling at you to watch faster, dammit. If hell were designed by industrial engineers, this is what it would look like.

Understandably, turnover was high. And turnover is expensive. You have to train a new person to tighten that bolt and get him used to the rhythm of the line. While he’s learning, he’s slower than other workers and more prone to accidents. The $5-a-day wage may have owed something to Ford’s rather, um, unique ideas about labor relations: It came with strings attached, including having the company’s Socialization Organization pry into your personal life. But mostly, it was about reducing turnover and thereby speeding up the line.

This is what economists call an efficiency wage. Paying workers more than the going market rate for their skill level can bring a lot of benefits to your company. You get lower turnover and, arguably, better on-the-job performance. This springs from four sources:
  1. Paying workers more than other workers in their skill class makes them feel warmly toward you. Humans are hard-wired for reciprocity: When someone gives us something, we feel obligated to give them something in return. So if you treat your employees extra-well, they feel obligated to treat you extra-well.
  2. Workers know that if they lose this job, they are likely to end up with a job that pays less. They are thus highly motivated to keep this job.
  3. Employers get to be choosier about who they hire.
  4. The wage attracts people with better skills.
As you can see, this concept is very exciting. But that excitement can get out of control; it frequently leads hot-blooded young progressives to conclude that if we just paid everyone more, all the companies would be more profitable! This is folk wisdom akin to believing that everyone should buy a lottery ticket because your cousin won $1 million that day.

Here’s what they are missing: Efficiency wages only work because the workers are getting more than they could make elsewhere. If everyone was paying the same wages, all the benefits to the employer would disappear.

To see what I mean, imagine if we could go back to 1913, the year before the $5-a-day revolution, and we offer those workers a chance to work for $8.50 an hour at Wal-Mart, 40 hours a week. Adjusted for inflation, that would be a 25 percent raise, a shorter workweek, and instead of tightening a bolt for nine hours in a dark and dangerous auto plant, they’d get to spend their time walking around a nice, air-conditioned, well-lit store. And the chance to buy health insurance!

You might well be able to skim the cream of the crop from Ford’s workforce with such an offer. Those men might be so intensely grateful for the opportunity to be inside, in a comfortable climate-controlled environment, that they’d work their butts off to be employee of the year, every year. You would obviously not have the same impact if you made the same offer today. You’d get, well, the folks who are working for Wal-Mart right now.

The point is not that Wal-Mart employees should be grateful for what they’re paid; the point is that an efficiency wage is determined by the overall wage level in the marketplace. A wage is generous or stingy not by some naturally ordained scale, but in comparison to your alternatives.

That’s one reason why labor agreements in the 1950s through 1970s emphasized compensation arrangements -- such as pensions and seniority raises -- that made it costly to switch firms. Turnover was still a problem for manufacturers even when they were paying higher wages than ever, because some people just can’t hack the monotony of an assembly line. So they gladly acquiesced to pay structures that rewarded longevity. Eventually all that back-loaded compensation became a huge problem for manufacturers, as their markets and their workforces shrank and their legacy costs rendered them uncompetitive. But at the time, it made sense, because with the general wage level high, they could no longer rely on the efficiency-wage effect to deliver a more reliable workforce.

In other words: A strategy of paying efficiency wages to attract, and retain, a higher-quality labor force is by definition a business model that cannot be followed by everyone in the market. If all the employers of minimum-wage labor followed Costco’s lead and paid higher wages and benefits, Costco would be less profitable, because the quality of its labor force would revert to the mean. And Costco’s loss would not necessarily be a gain to any other employer; they’d be paying higher wages but still enjoying the same average workforce quality. Of course, they might attract better-skilled workers from other industries, which could raise productivity. But that’s not a good progressive argument for efficiency wages, because what happens to the workers who used to have those jobs?

When you’ve got some laudable goal in mind, it’s easy to forget that you really can have too much of a good thing. If the Kennedy tax cuts were a good idea, then we should just keep cutting to zero and really unleash some economic growth. If you liked an $8-an-hour minimum wage, why not $15? Why not $25? If it works for Costco, why not for every retailer in the country? Analysts end up acting like teenage boys with a can of Axe body spray: If some is good, more must be even better.

But even good things have natural stopping points, and efficiency wages are one of them. Costco indeed shows that it is possible to pay wages like Costco's -- if you are running a Costco. It does not follow that every company could profitably do the same. In fact, it demonstrates that they couldn’t.

Does that mean that you shouldn’t advocate for higher wages? No; you can make an argument that companies should pay higher wages, and just too bad for the shareholders and consumers who have to take a haircut. I don’t necessarily agree with that argument, but it isn’t undercut by efficiency-wage theory.

But it does mean that you can’t argue for such raises from the behavior of Costco and other companies that follow an efficiency-wage strategy. If you’re going to advocate for higher wages, do so safely, responsibly and with all the facts.