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March 2009
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Who Will Replace Justice Souter?

The ABA Journal listed possible nominees for the United States Supreme Court: Judge Sonia Sotomayor of the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals; Elena Kagan, U.S. Solicitor General; Seth Waxman, a partner at Washington, D.C.’s Wilmer Hale; Judge Diane Wood of the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

With a filibuster-proof Democratic majority, Obama may nominate whomever he pleases.  That said, Waxman is out.  Obama will need to nominate a woman.  The Supreme Court currently has 8 males to 1 female.  That is unacceptable. 

Kagan and Woods are good picks.  Both have good reputations.  Still, I don't think they are front runners.

If Judge Sotomayor were nominated, Obama would make history.  Sotomayor would be the first Hispanic Justice on the United States Supreme Court.

I think Sotomayor will most likely get the nomination.

American Express Credit Card Scam

I've studied credit card scams and abuses in the abstract.  I wanted to do an experiment to see how shady credit card company "accounting" really is.  My cynical self was astounded. 

I'll tell you what I did, and then show you what happened.  I'm sure some shyster can explain why this "accounting" was the product of "free choice" or "freedom of contract."  It's a shyster I won't listen to, as anyone who would defend this practice is unworthy of attention.

I always pay my balance off each month.  This month, I decided to carry a small balance to see what finance charge I would incur. 

My previous balance was $979.90.  Payment Activity (how much I paid) was $704.90.  Thus, should have had an unpaid credit card balance of $275 that I would pay interest on.  My annual percentage rate is 13.4%. 

Question: How much should have interest payment have been?  Answer: When dealing with credit card companies, forget what you think you know about math.

I was charged $13.63 in finance charges?  How?  My APR is 13.24%.   

Is there some hidden usurious rate?   

The answer is even more amazing. 

Even though I paid off all but $275 of my balance, I was required to pay interest on an "average daily balance"  of $1,211.03.  So American Express calculated my 13.4% APR based on money I did not actually owe them.  Remember, I paid them back all but $275.

How in that legal? 

I'm a smart guy.  I'm a jaded guy.  I don't believe in tooth fairies and gum drops.  I thought I had a pretty good idea how corrupt credit card companies are.  Credit card companies like American Express are so corrupt and scummy that even I couldn't foresee what they would do.

How then can anyone argue that people with IQs several standard deviations less than mine "freely" enters into contracts with credit card companies? 

There can be no principled defense of credit card company's "accounting" methods. 

Henceforth, I'm going to use credit cards as a litmus test.  Anyone who mentions "freedom of contract" within the context of credit cards has such an unrealistic understanding of how credit card companies opreate that their opinions are per se invalid.

P.S.  As a taxpayer, I bailed out American Express.  I bailed out American Express so that they and other banks can rob me.  As Don King would say, "Only in America!"

How Science Becomes Religion

One interesting issue with the social sciences is this: You'll often hear people say, "The data show [insert some proposition.]"  Does the data show anything; or do we twist the data to conform to our beliefs? 

Let's look at a recent headline: "Survey: Women still earn less than men."  Why doesn't the headline read: "Survey: Women work earn less hard than men."

When you begin looking at data with premises that might not be true, the data will show you want you want to see. 

Do women work less hard than men do?  If so, then they should earn less than men.  If women work equally hard, then pay disparity would be unjust.

Yet the social scientists would have us take it as a matter of faith that women work as hard as men do.  If everyone shares that tenant of faith, then pay disparities are a serious issue.  But why should we take anything on faith?  I thought science was about "objective" truth?  You cannot establish the truth of something until you have proven every premise. 

Until people seriously examine articles of faith, studies on gender pay disparity will remain as authoritative as Bulfinch's Mythology.

Don't Call Swine Flu, Swine Flu

I wish this were from The Onion.  But, no, this is truly how politically correct the United States has become:

WASHINGTON, April 28 (Reuters) - What's in a name? U.S. pork producers are finding that the name of the virus spreading from Mexico is affecting their business, prompting U.S. officials to argue for changing the name from swine flu.

Given that swine flu comes from - well, swine - you'd think the government would stick with the name.  The farmers in the Midwest might cry:

At a news briefing, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack took pains to repeatedly refer to the flu as the "H1N1 virus."

Now that's a memorable name!  Educating the public will be easy to do with such a name.  After all, it's important that a disease that might strike millions have a memorable name.  How else will people communicate about it? 

Why not call the swine flu something else?  That's what Jews Jewish Israelis are doing:

Israel has already rejected the name swine flu, and opted to call it "Mexico flu." Jewish dietary laws forbid eating pork.

We can't do that in the United States.  Mexico would be offended.  So we can't call the swine flu the Mexico flu.  Even though the swine flu originated in Mexico.

I suppose Napolitano would say that if R2D2 is good for George Lucas, then H1N1 should be good enough for us.  Hopefully only a few million Americans die in the name of political correctness.

What is Law?

Norm Pattis asks: What is law?  His working definition provides:

The law ... is a set of rules setting forth the minimum conditions of order necessary for the broadest class of people to pursue their individual ends.

Here is my definition of the law:

Law is the use of the legal system to impose one's will upon another.

If you sue someone, what are you doing?  You're imposing your will upon another person. 

My definition is complete, because it recognizes democratic reality.  Many of our laws make no sense, and are the product of special interests.  Why do we have farm subsidies?  They are not democratic.  If Americans voted as a collective, farm subsidies would be rejected.  Yet special interests are able to manipulate the government.

Why did we have Prohibition?  Because a bunch of nit-wits imposed their values upon the American public.

If you are prosecuted for a crime, why is that?  It's because some group of people got a law passed that allowed them to impose their will upon you.

It might be the case that one's will is justly or unjustly imposed.  Yet, at its foundation, the law is simply the imposition of will.