Idea storage

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Sex offenders and recidivism

Every day it seems we hear a story about a young girl who was murdered by a sex offenders who had been released from prison. The editorial implication is often that the murderer should never have been released. The problem with this type of analysis, however, is that it rarely discusses actual studies on recidivism. Of course, if we *know* for a fact that a particular offender is highly likely to murder when released, then it would be hard to argue that he should ever be released. However, we never know for sure which offenders will murder and which will never offend again. Some might say err on the side of caution, and incarcerate all sex offenders for as long as possible. The problem, though, is that so many people are classified as sex offenders that we'd be incarcerating a far larger percentage of our population than most people would ever suspect. The vast majority of these people will not murder when they are released, I'm confident of that, and many will be productive members of society.

Eugene Volokh has this interesting post on the RRASOR ("razor") test, which is a simple screening of sex offenders to determine their likelihood of recidivism. Any of the following factors are deemed to increase an offender's likelihood of recidivism: youthfulness, male victims, multiple offenses. What Volokh, a law professor, wonders is, if the parole board takes this test into account in determining who will get parole, does it violate equal protection of law?

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Illegal immigrants being prosecuted for trespassing in small-town southern New Hampshire

A series of arrests in the towns of New Ipswich and Hudson have gathered some national medial attention (N.Y. Times article here - you must subscribe for free). Local police officers, upset that INS will not arrest illegal immigrants in the community, arrested them for trespassing.

I have a general opposition to immigration control unless an individual seeking to enter can be shown to be dangerous. My opinion is that, contrary to popular belief, immigrants produce more for the economy than they take from it, and don't commit crimes disproportionately. Therefore, they are generally a benefit. Overcrowding is not an issue in this country. As evidence, just look at which area has a higher standard of living -- a densely populated state like New Jersey or Rhode Island, or a sparsely populated one like Wyoming or Alaska? The answer is of course the densely populated states, because the more people working in close proximity the more efficiently each individual can produce economic value. Rural America is the ground of many future New York cities, and this is a good thing, trust me.

Immigration is one of Bill O'Reilly's pet issues and it makes me laugh every time he talks about it on his show because he has no idea what he's talking about. What it is is the fear of the other. He uses statistics in a misleading way to provoke fear in his audience.

In fact, tight immigration control is a wasted of resources and a serious drain on our economy.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

How does N.H. compare to other states in regard to lawyers per capita?

I was curious about this question, so I got date on lawyers per state (for the years '04 and '05), state population (as of July '04), and gross state product (as of '04) . I put this data into a spreadsheet to get the following pieces of information:

1. How many lawyer are there in that particular state?
2. How many dollars are there per lawyer? (Gross state product vs. number of lawyers)

Just to give you a sample of how it came out, here are the top and bottom states for each figure (note: this only includes the 50 states, not D.C., Virgin Islands, etc. D.C. would obviously have far and away the most lawyers per capita,.)

Lawyers per state:

1. Massachusetts - 7.76 atty per 10,000 people
2. New York - 7.39
3. Connecticut - 5.13
4. Illinois - 5.02
5. Rhode Island
46. Indiana - 2.11
47. North Dakota - 2.05
48. North Carolina - 2.03
49. South Carolina - 1.99
50. Arkansas - 1.92

Millions of dollars in the economy per lawyer
1. Delaware - 23.40
2. North Carolina - 19.38
3. North Dakota - 18.11
4. Nevada - 18.01
5. South Dakota - 17.71
46. Louisiana - 9.00
47. Rhode Island - 8.75
48. Illinois - 8.28
49. Massachusetts - 6.38
50. New York - 6.31

Clearly this doesn't mean that lawyers in states like N.Y. and Mass. are making less money than in places like North Carolina and South Dakota. Just the opposite is probably true. My conclusion from this data is that law firms in states do national work that includes services for businesses conducted all over the country.

To answer the question posed above, New Hampshire ranks # 36 in terms of lawyers in the state, with 16.35 lawyers per 1,000 persons. In terms of money per lawyer, NH ranks #9 at 16.35 millions of dollars per lawyer. It must follow that Massachusetts and N.Y. lawyers are taking our economy's dollars!

Here is a link to my spreadsheet. Sheet 1 and Sheet 2 contain the exact same data, but Sheet 1 has the states ranked by dollars per lawyer, while Sheet 2 has them ranked by lawyers per State.

Monday, July 11, 2005


One thing that I have to say has been bothering me is that I can't get this piece of hardware that I bought, that supposedly will allow me to watch cable television through my computer monitor in a window, to work. The funny thing about it is is that I don't even like TV all that much. It just seems so cool to not have to two screens in the same room just to watch TV and use the computer at the same time. What's the point? Ockham's Razor (alt. spelling Occam's Razor).

Anyway, another thing I'd like to see, along the same lines, is house and car keys that could attach to your telephone/ipod. Why not, right? They can do it at hotel rooms, which are usually in much worse neighborhoods than your house. And cars I'm sure they could do it. Of course the cars and locksmiths would have to cooperate but why wouldn't they. I wonder how hard that would be to set up.

Then all you'd have to do is carry one device around with you that would just be a very small computer designed to do exactly the stuff you like -- talk on the phone, listen to music, e-mail, view the web. It would just be slower with break-ups in service, etc., the same stuff people used to deal with a lot more often before DSL.

In any event, I wanna be the first person to carry one of those things. Then the next step would just be adding a credit card onto there and not carrying any money either. Then, of course, if you lost the thing you're screwed.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

People & Animals

I just got this subscription to the supposedly most e-mailed photos. I've been surprised how many are of animals. I have to say that today's photo of a 7-day old baby macaque is cute. (Go here for photo with full caption from yahoo).

To me, what's more interesting than animals is the human obsession with animals, which I think reflects an inherent moral quandary over how we treat other life forms, and ultimately matter. Though I'm a vegetarian, I don't consider myself an animal rights advocate, and I don't intend to suggest I wish to influence the the behavior of the listener on this point. I'm simply noting the obvious subjectivity over where one draws the line.

Naturally, human morals is contingent on the notion that our consciousness is entitled to far greater consumption of resources than any other form of consciousness. It's a survival mechanism: Each organism, including the human, will naturally consume as much as possible, before allowing any other organism, except those with a similar genetic makeup, to consume any.

In order for the human mind to make this logically sensible, which is necessary for survival, it must judge the consciousness of the other in relationship to the other's apparent similarity, or lack thereof, to the mind of the judge. That such a notion of morals would evolve make sense, because our genes motivate our bodies to promote the success of bodies that house similar genes (see Dawkins). Thus, a person is normally motivated greatly to help a relative, to a much lesser extent, the baby macaque, and only nominally, bacteria.

The reductionist school of ethics analyzes all behavior as ultimately caused by prior events, that themselves were caused. That is, free will is purportedly denied. I'm naturally critical of this thesis, because it seems to deny the possibility of morals. Yet we have good reason for wanting morals to exist. If they do, it bodes well for our long-term future ...