Satire and Parody in the US Presidential Campaign 2008

Shakespeare depicted life as either comedy or tragedy.

Barack Obama, for example, has recently been the subject of a satirical cover at The New Yorker magazine. Laugh or cry.

In case you are not familiar with it through Jay Leno, the website has some videos which parody various subjects, including the US Presidential Campaign:

It is all a matter of taste (or not), but see Time for Some Campaignin’ by JibJab.

Andrew Sullivan at The Daily Dish writes that it is “their best yet”.

Hat tip to CaryGEE.

The Science of Nudging and Why Barack Obama Might Be Elected President of the United States : Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness

Who will win the US Presidential Election in 2008?

Behavioural economics might tell us.

According to its theories, the election might then well go to the candidate who best masters “the science of nudging“, and at the moment that candidate might well be Barack Obama, whose vision of change is what a behavioural economist might call an exercise in “choice architecture” – a classic nudge.

Aditya Chakrabortty writes about the nudge as follows at The Guardian, Saturday July 12, 2008, in From Obama to Cameron, why do so many politicians want a piece of Richard Thaler?

What is the big idea of Richard Thaler, the economist quoted by David Cameron and Barack Obama? It comes down to this: you’re not as smart as you think. Humans, he believes, are less rational and more influenced by peer pressure and suggestion than governments and economists reckon.

“Economists assume people have brains like supercomputers that can solve anything,” says Thaler. “But human minds are more like really old Apple Macs with slow processing speeds and prone to frequent crashes.”

According to this view, voters are less Mr Spock than Homer Simpson and they could do with a bit of help – what Thaler terms a “nudge” – to save more, eat more healthily and do all the other things that they know they should.

Cameron is so interested in the idea that in a speech last month he mentioned Thaler, his co-author Cass Sunstein and even the fact they had a new book out, Nudge. He then summed up their argument: “One of the most important influences on people’s behaviour is what other people do … with the right prompting we’ll change our behaviour to fit in with what we see around us.” It was surely the best plug two Chicago academics with a book about the obscure discipline of behavioural economics could hope for.” [emphasis added by LawPundit]

Read the whole article here.

Nudge co-authors Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein are interviewed at the page of their book, providing us with an introduction to the science of nudging and “Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness“: What do you mean by “nudge” and why do people sometimes need to be nudged?

Thaler and Sunstein: By a nudge we mean anything that influences our choices. A school cafeteria might try to nudge kids toward good diets by putting the healthiest foods at front. We think that it’s time for institutions, including government, to become much more user-friendly by enlisting the science of choice to make life easier for people and by gentling nudging them in directions that will make their lives better. What are some of the situations where nudges can make a difference?

Thaler and Sunstein: Well, to name just a few: better investments for everyone, more savings for retirement, less obesity, more charitable giving, a cleaner planet, and an improved educational system. We could easily make people both wealthier and healthier by devising friendlier choice environments, or architectures…. What is “choice architecture” and how does it affect the average person’s daily life?

Thaler and Sunstein: Choice architecture is the context in which you make your choice. Suppose you go into a cafeteria. What do you see first, the salad bar or the burger and fries stand? Where’s the chocolate cake? Where’s the fruit? These features influence what you will choose to eat, so the person who decides how to display the food is the choice architect of the cafeteria. All of our choices are similarly influenced by choice architects. The architecture includes rules deciding what happens if you do nothing; what’s said and what isn’t said; what you see and what you don’t. Doctors, employers, credit card companies, banks, and even parents are choice architects. [emphasis added by LawPundit]

We show that by carefully designing the choice architecture, we can make dramatic improvements in the decisions people make, without forcing anyone to do anything. For example, we can help people save more and invest better in their retirement plans, make better choices when picking a mortgage, save on their utility bills, and improve the environment simultaneously. Good choice architecture can even improve the process of getting a divorce–or (a happier thought) getting married in the first place! Are we humans just poorly adapted for making sound judgments in an increasingly fast-paced and complex world? What can we do to position ourselves better?

Thaler and Sunstein: The human brain is amazing, but it evolved for specific purposes, such as avoiding predators and finding food. Those purposes do not include choosing good credit card plans, reducing harmful pollution, avoiding fatty foods, and planning for a decade or so from now. Fortunately, a few nudges can help a lot….

A final hint: Read Nudge. “

Hat tip to Edge.

US Foreign Policy under President Obama : Senator Barack Obama’s July 15, 2008 Speech Outlines his New Strategy for the United States and a New World

Barack Obama has just delivered a major speech, setting forth his major foreign policy strategies for his campaign battle against John McCain in the 2008 US Presidential Election.

Obama’s speech is found online at Senator Barack Obama’s New Strategy for a New World, where it is available both in a video as well as a print version.

The YouTube video version is embedded here at LawPundit and runs 36:24 minutes:

It is quicker to read the print version.

Compare McCain’s Strategy for Victory in Iraq.

Choosing the Right Law School: What About Golf ? Equal on the Tee : US Supreme Court Chief Justice Roberts, Golf Pro Tiger Woods and Golfist Mike Park

The Golf Digest College Guide to Golf 2007-2008 ranks Stanford University at Number 1 for golf. We definitely agree. Stanford’s championship course was one of the variables which in part determined our own choice of law school out of ten possibilities a number of years ago.

Man does not live by law alone. Golf matters.

As written at Golf Digest’s Political Golf Rankings:

… Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, a longtime player whose 14.5 Index hasn’t been updated since 2000, declined to approximate his handicap, saying he hasn’t been playing enough to have one.

This, obviously, is a regrettable lapse of judgment on the part of a Chief Justice who got where he is by p(l)aying golf its proper due in his formative years. We are certain that the Chief Justice’s opinions would improve all the more if he played golf often enough to maintain a handicap rating. Let each man swing for what he is worth in a game which levels all classes of humanity.

Equal on the Tee*

After all, golf humbly teaches every golfer who has had the courage to swing a club, that on the tee, all men are equal**… unless, of course, you are Tiger Woods.

And even then, that Stanford grad has recently been brought to the “knee” by the Golf gods …. (see Woods to miss the rest of the year with knee surgery).

No one is spared. Everyone has to pay his just due.

Mike Park speaks for the soul of golf when he writes in Golf is good for you:

Read the USGA rules of golf and you see the New England Primer, the U.S. Constitution, and the Rule of St. Benedict: words that bring structure and order to a stochastic universe. Playing golf, then, is a celebration of a way of life. How can you live without it. If you can’t live without it, how can it be a luxury? Any way you look at it, a year of golf is cheaper than a year of Prozac and counseling, and better for you. How is that a luxury? Playing golf means you aren’t flirting with women who aren’t your wife, it means taking the time to think about the meaning of your life and your place in the world, and being a better person.

On the course, you are a better man than you are off of it. You let people through. You report your sins and assign your own punishment. You keep a respectful silence as other people go about their business. You offer to share your cigars. If all of the world adhered to golf etiquette, we would have none of the current mess we are in.


* The LawPundit phrase “equal on the tee“(TM) is hereby copyrighted and trademarked and may not be used in any golf or other context for commercial or other proprietary purposes of any kind without contractual permission from LawPundit. We do not plan to exploit this phrase commercially, but this notice means that no one else can (or should) either, as it is our invention (Google does not find that phrase today, prior to our coining of it).
** That all men are equal on the tee is something that some golfers, curiously enough, seem not yet to have learned.

Make Love Not War : The Barcelona Process : The Union for the Mediterranean (UfM) is Approved at the Paris Summit

Here is an interesting geopolitical question. What country in Africa, NOT located on the Mediterranean, is a part of the just approved Union for the Mediterranean (UfM)? See UfM map. This country is geographically larger than either France, Germany or Spain, more than twice as large geographically as Iraq, nearly six times the geographic size of Syria, and also larger geographically than either Egypt or Turkey. The answer is: Mauritania. (See world map).

On July 13, 2008 Barcelona Process : Union for the Mediterranean (Union pour la Méditerranée) was approved at the Paris Summit of the leaders of the member countries. The organization, though in somewhat different form, was originally the brainchild of French President Nicolas Sarkozywho said its aim was to ensure the region’s people could love each other instead of making war.”

The Union for the Mediterranean is a 43-member community, encompassing 750 million people (ca. 25% from Arab States), and comprised of the Member States of the European Union plus the “states” bordering on the Mediterranean Sea and participating in the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership (the so-called “Barcelona Process”).

The goal of the Union for the Mediterranean is to improve relations between the EU, North Africa and the Middle East and to tackle common problems such as immigration, pollution and political unrest.

But already one day after approval of the Union there are signs that the leadership of the non-EU countries will have to struggle to muster up the maturity and the discipline needed to carry out such an ambitious project, which has been cautiously supported by the USA in the hopes of “spurring on Palestinian-Israeli peace negotiations.

There is also negative opinion that the Union for the Mediterranean could serve to accelerate general devolution in the European Union.

Nevertheless, in spite of the obvious political problems involved, main areas of focus of the Union for the Mediterranean will be:

  • improving energy supply
  • fighting pollution in the Mediterranean
  • strengthening the surveillance of maritime traffic and “civil security cooperation”
  • setting up a Mediterranean Erasmus exchange programme for students, and
  • creating a scientific community between Europe and its southern neighbours.

For an interactive map (in French) relating to details about the UfM (Union for the Mediterranean), see Making Mediterranean waves at the blog of MESH, Middle East Strategy at Harvard, a project of the John M. Olin Institute for Strategic Studies at the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs.

Net Neutrality a Rising Issue as FCC warns Comcast About File Exchange Restrictions placed on Web Use by Paying Customers

Net neutrality encompasses the idea that providers of Internet access services should not be able to place any discriminatory restrictions on web use by their users.

The issue in the instant case is a ComCast practice of restricting BitTorrent file exchanges without even informing the affected users as to the nature and extent of the practice. Since ComCast is the largest cable company in the USA, this is a significant matter.

As written by Saul Hansell in the New York Times Technology section under F.C.C. Chief Would Bar Comcast From Imposing Web Restrictions:

Kevin J. Martin, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, said Friday that Comcast, the nation’s largest cable company, should be sanctioned because it had interfered with the Internet connections of users who were exchanging files with other people.

Mr. Martin’s recommendation is a strong push for network neutrality, the idea that Internet access providers like Comcast should not be allowed to favor some uses of their networks over others….

“The normative message is that it is wrong to block the Internet,” said Tim Wu, a professor at Columbia Law School who is the chairman of Free Press, an advocacy group that filed the complaint about Comcast for which Mr. Martin is proposing a resolution.

“The deeper message he’s sending here is that users are sovereign. If two people want to send a file between each other, the carriers are not to get in the way.”

Professor Wu said the issues at stake go back to the common-law concept of a common carrier, which defined certain businesses — from blacksmiths to ferries — as so essential to commerce that their owners could not discriminate against any paying customer.

These ancient concerns are increasingly relevant to the Internet as an ever-greater share of commerce is conducted online. Companies that sell products or offer content over the Internet have worried that without regulation, the Internet access providers might chose to offer better and faster service to some companies — perhaps those that pay for preferred treatment — than to others.

Internet service providers on the other hand are legitimately looking for solutions to the problem of heavy broadband use by Internet file exchangers in particular, e.g. in the present case:

Comcast argues that its approach is legitimate, and that the commission does not have the authority to impose any sanctions.

“We believe that the network management technique we chose at the time was reasonable,” said Sena Fitzmaurice, a Comcast spokeswoman. She added that Comcast had already said it planned to change its approach to dealing with heavy use. It is developing a system that will slow the Internet connections of people who are moving large amounts of data at busy times.

Read the entire article to get a good bird’s eye view of the immensely significant issue of net neutrality which will become increasingly important in the future as Internet service providers battle to keep heavy file-exchanging broadband use from clogging the Internet.

We definitely support net neutrality in principle. On the other hand, we also think that Internet service providers should be permitted to have non-discriminatory means at their disposal to restrict heavy broadband use as needed in order to maintain the ability of EVERYONE to access the Internet and not have the online rights of all to be burdened by the few.