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Thursday, April 12, 2007
April 11, 2007
Panel Said to Alter a Report on Voter Fraud
By IAN URBINA
WASHINGTON — A federal panel responsible for conducting election research played down the findings of experts who concluded last year that there was little voter fraud around the nation, according to a review of the original report obtained by The New York Times.
Instead, the panel, the Election Assistance Commission, issued a report that said the pervasiveness of fraud was open to debate.
The revised version echoes complaints made by Republican politicians, who have long suggested that voter fraud is widespread and justifies the voter identification laws that have been passed in at least two dozen states.
Democrats say the threat is overstated and have opposed voter identification laws, which they say disenfranchise the poor, members of minority groups and the elderly, who are less likely to have photo IDs and are more likely to be Democrats.
Though the original report said that among experts "there is widespread but not unanimous agreement that there is little polling place fraud," the final version of the report released to the public concluded in its executive summary that "there is a great deal of debate on the pervasiveness of fraud."
April 12, 2007
In 5-Year Effort, Scant Evidence of Voter Fraud
By ERIC LIPTON and IAN URBINA
WASHINGTON — Five years after the Bush administration began a crackdown on voter fraud, the Justice Department has turned up virtually no evidence of any organized effort to skew federal elections, according to court records and interviews.
Although Republican activists have repeatedly said fraud is so widespread that it has corrupted the political process and, possibly, cost the party election victories, about 120 people have been charged and 86 convicted as of last year.
Most of those charged have been Democrats, voting records show. Many of those charged by the Justice Department appear to have mistakenly filled out registration forms or misunderstood eligibility rules, a review of court records and interviews with prosecutors and defense lawyers show....
What we have in the US Attorney abuse is an attempt at democratic subversion that takes us round to the sorry Jim Crow days. I am shocked.
Bob Herbert has complained of intimidation of African Americans voters for several years, but too little attention is paid to the wonderful Herbert.
Also, I consider utilitarianism a faulty limiting base for economics and will explain. We can do better than Bentham, and JS Mill is barely understood by economists while Kant, well, you know....
August 16, 2004
Suppress the Vote?
By BOB HERBERT
The big story out of Florida over the weekend was the tragic devastation caused by Hurricane Charley. But there's another story from Florida that deserves our attention.
State police officers have gone into the homes of elderly black voters in Orlando and interrogated them as part of an odd "investigation" that has frightened many voters, intimidated elderly volunteers and thrown a chill over efforts to get out the black vote in November.
The officers, from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, which reports to Gov. Jeb Bush, say they are investigating allegations of voter fraud that came up during the Orlando mayoral election in March....
August 20, 2004
Voting While Black
By BOB HERBERT
The smell of voter suppression coming out of Florida is getting stronger. It turns out that a Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigation, in which state troopers have gone into the homes of elderly black voters in Orlando in a bizarre hunt for evidence of election fraud, is being conducted despite a finding by the department last May "that there was no basis to support the allegations of election fraud."
State officials have said that the investigation, which has already frightened many voters and intimidated elderly volunteers, is in response to allegations of voter fraud involving absentee ballots that came up during the Orlando mayoral election in March. But the department considered that matter closed last spring, according to a letter from the office of Guy Tunnell, the department's commissioner, to Lawson Lamar, the state attorney in Orlando, who would be responsible for any criminal prosecutions....
Heck, William James along with Kant would form a superb philsophical base for economists or at least many economists. Chicago-ans I have no hope for; forgive me, I have enough to answer for at Confession already.
Dear Ernst Mayr developed the basis of a philosophy of biology that shows what can be done in important philosophical distinction among the physical sciences. There is need of significant work on a philosophy of economics. Bentham is not what is needed.
What Evolution Is
Interview of Ernst Mayr
EDGE: To what extent has the study of evolutionary biology been the study of ideas about evolutionary biology? Is evolution the evolution of ideas, or is it a fact? ...
[A sense of what Ernst Mayr was about philosophically, 150 years after Darwin.]
MAYR: One of my themes is that Darwin changed the foundations of Western thought. He challenged certain ideas that had been accepted by everyone, and we now agree that he was right and his contemporaries were wrong. Let me just illuminate some of them. One such idea goes back to Plato who claimed that there were a limited number of classes of objects and each class of objects had a fixed definition. Any variation between entities in the same class was only accidental and the reality was an underlying realm of absolutes.
EDGE: How does that pertain to Darwin?
MAYR: Well Darwin showed that such essentialist typology was absolutely wrong. Darwin, though he didn't realize it at the time, invented the concept of biopopulation, which is the idea that the living organisms in any assemblage are populations in which every individual is uniquely different, which is the exact opposite of such a typological concept as racism. Darwin applied this populational idea quite consistently in the discovery of new adaptations though not when explaining the origin of new species.
Another idea that Darwin refuted was that of teleology, which goes back to Aristotle. During Darwin's lifetime, the concept of teleology, or the use of ultimate purpose as a means of explaining natural phenomena, was prevalent. In his Critique of Pure Reason, Kant based his philosophy on Newton's laws. When he tried the same approach in a philosophy of living nature, he was totally unsuccessful. Newtonian laws didn't help him explain biological phenomena. So he invoked Aristotle's final cause in his Critique of Judgement. However, explaining evolution and biological phenomena with the idea of teleology was a total failure.
To make a long story short, Darwin showed very clearly that you don't need Aristotle's teleology because natural selection applied to bio-populations of unique phenomena can explain all the puzzling phenomena for which previously the mysterious process of teleology had been invoked.
The late philosopher, Willard Van Orman Quine, who was for many years probably America's most distinguished philosopher — you know him, he died last year — told me about a year before his death that as far as he was concerned, Darwin's greatest achievement was that he showed that Aristotle's idea of teleology, the so-called fourth cause, does not exist....
On utilitarianism I would distinguish between A) the theory in psychology that people act in order to maximize their happiness and b) the ethical view that people should act to maximize the sum of happiness in the world that is betPost a Comment
A implies a very strong form of rationality since it is assumed that people do maximize utility not that they attempt to maximize utility. It is well know that the idea that people attempt to maximize their happiness has no testable implications.
It is also true that the hypothesis that people rationally maximize happiness has not testable implications and is not a scientific hypothesis. Any implications of utility maximizing models are implications of assumptions about the form of utility functions.
The proof is trivial. Imagine a person whose sole aim in life is to act in a many inconsistent with utility maximization. If there were any actions inconsistent with utility maximization, one would be utility maximizing for this individual. This is a logical contradiction, so there must be no action inconsistent with utility maximizing. QED
For those unconvinced by this argument, I note that all efforts to find implications of utility maximization are clearly based on the assumption which no one believes that utility functions are time seperable (revealed preference implies we enjoy eating no more at the beginning of a meal than after eating 1000 square meals in a row).
B on the other hand is another matter. For many years I thought that utilitarianism was the true description of what is right and what is wrong. I don't anymore, but I don't find the idea obviously absurd.
A is due to Bentham and is the foundation of (almost all) modern economic theory. B is due to Bentham's followers and is much detested by professional moral philosophers.