Small Bits of Chaos

Ed Felten announced a “Clip Blog,” of short articles with no or small comments. Hmmm. Neat idea.


Ian Grigg gives us his thoughts on the Abagnale controversy:

[Clausewitz] said something to the extent of “Know yourself and you will win half your battles. Know your enemy and you will win 99 battles out of a hundred.” Those speakers who complained or withdrew have cast themselves as limited to the first group, the self-knowers, and revealed themselves as reliable only to win every second battle.


The New York Times has an article about a statistical risk assessment being applied to convicts in Virginia. It is advisory, not mandatory. Young men, being more likely to commit additional crimes, will be more likely to go to jail. The article also states:

Still, if the state has a compelling reason to discriminate based on age and sex, it sometimes can. And public safety is almost always deemed to be such a reason. The moral and legal picture would be cloudier, of course, if Virginia’s sentencing recommendations were based on race. There’s a statistical basis for doing that; Kern’s study found that African-American felons committed new crimes at higher rates than whites. But Kern and his commission advised the state to stop short of taking race into account at sentencing, reasoning that it was merely serving as a proxy for socioeconomic disadvantage.

The imposition of judgment into the system probably makes it less effective, and may open the system to challenges: Why that rule, not this one? A system based on experience might be more likely to survive.


And finally, Alec Muffett offers advice to a young man about to enter our profession. And Alec, we’ll get you that bucket of porridge and glass of scotch next time we see you.