Short Term vs. Long Term

The Fed has raised interest rates again:

The action pushed the federal funds rate up to 3.25 percent. It marked the ninth increase in the interest that banks charge each other on overnight loans and left this benchmark rate at its highest level since September 2001. When the Fed started its credit tightening campaign a year ago, the funds rate had been at a 46-year low of 1 percent.

And yet my wife and I just locked in a 30-year fixed rate mortgage at 5.625%, lower than it would have been just a few months ago. I know that long term mortgages are tied to much different markets than what the fed directly controls, but this is still a little bizarre, no?

Soldier Blogging

Looks like the military's new policy on blogging from Iraq has been floating around for a few weeks, though I've just noticed it. It seems pretty easy to comply with, and just the sort of tempered restriction you would expect on soldiers in a combat zone.

Sullivan on Iraq

I strongly encourage putting aside ten or fifteen minutes to read Andrew Sullivan's latest on Iraq, published a few days ago in the Sunday Times. If it is not the best big picture summary of where we are right now vis-�-vis Iraq, it must be close. He sums it up well in the end: hope without confidence, disillusionment but not yet despair.

Supreme Court Statistics

Some interesting statistics on the now completed Supreme Court term from the folks at SCOTUSblog:

One set of numbers jumps out at me dramatically: the 5-4 alignments. This term will end with roughly 1/4 of the cases decided 5-4, which is about average. Almost without exception, approximately 1/2 of the 5-4 cases is decided by a majority composed of the Chief Justice and Justices O'Connor, Scalia, Kennedy, and Thomas. This term, of the 17 cases decided so far that are 5-4 in whole or in part, only three were have been composed of that traditional conservative majority.

Although the alignments in this term's 5-4 cases are all over the map (with no Justice so far in fewer than eight 5-4 majorities or more than ten), this will (I think) be the first term in which there are fewer cases decided by the five most conservative Justices than by majorities composed of their four more liberal colleagues plus one of the conservatives. So far, the latter scenario has occurred five times -- twice with Justice O'Connor, twice with Justice Kennedy, and once with Justice Scalia.

Taking a close look at these numbers gives a fresh reminder of how nuanced one has to be in describing the functioning of the present Court. There are now so many fault lines with so many different permutations of alliance that it has become difficult, I think, to paint a picture with any kind of broad brushstrokes.

This is something to keep in mind amidst all of the nomination speculation, when you hear the talking heads declare that replacing Rehnquist or O'Connor with this or that justice means X or Y doctrine will be in jeopardy or in play.

It might also be a good reminder to the folks at the Associated Press to not simply assume that Justice O'Connor is the swing vote on every case:

In that 5-4 ruling and another decision involving the positioning of a 6-foot granite monument of the Ten Commandments on the grounds of the Texas capitol, Justice Sandra Day O'Connor was the swing vote. The second ruling, likewise, was by a 5-4 margin.

In today's dual 5-4 Ten Commandments cases, it was actually Justice Breyer who was in the majority both times, joining the dissenters from McCreary County to uphold the the Texas capitol monument. Justice O'Connor wrote a dissent in the Texas capitol case.

UPDATE: Looks like somebody sort of figured it out. CNN's own story (rather than the AP wire story quoted above) reads:

Justice Stephen Breyer, considered a moderate liberal, voted against the displays in Kentucky but in favor of the one in Texas.

Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, a moderate conservative, voted against the displays in both states and cast the swing vote in the Kentucky decision, which stopped short of forbidding such exhibits on all court or government property.

O'Connor did write a concurrence in McCreary rather than join the plurality opinion, so in that sense she was the key vote. However, I'd say it would be more accurate to say Breyer was the swing vote in both cases, since he is the one who actually "swung."

Bach Recommendations?

With the exception of Coldplay's brilliant new album, I have found myself listening to little other than three of Johann Sebastian Bach's greatest works. I have found myself enraptured by his Cello Suites, Goldberg Variations, and Sonatas and Partitas for Solo Violin (performed by Rostropovich, Perahia, and Milstein, respectively). I reckon that means I like the guy. Anyone have recommendations for my fourth Bach album? And then a fifth?

One of These Things Is Not Like the Other

See if you can spot the preposterously trivial and atonal sentence in this update on the missing person search in Aruba:

A team of Texas search specialists will begin hunting for Alabama teen Natalee Holloway in earnest Saturday, the same day the five suspects in the Aruba case are to appear before a judge.

Tim Miller, director and founder of Texas Equusearch, said most of the 24-member search team, including eight divers and one dog, had arrived by Friday night. Three more dogs and their handlers were to arrive Saturday.

The dogs, considered highly trained, will wear booties to protect their paws from cacti needles. At least $25,000 has been contributed for the search so far through the nonprofit group's Web site, Miller said.

Meanwhile, an Aruban judge in police custody in connection with the 18-year-old's disappearance faced more questioning Friday. Paul Van Der Sloot, 53, and four other suspects, including Van Der Sloot's 17-year-old son, are to face a judge who will decide whether they are to remain in custody.

Did you catch it? Let me try one more time:

The dogs, considered highly trained, will wear booties to protect their paws from cacti needles.

Yep, that's the one.

Temporary Reprieve

This CNN headline really freaked me out:

U.S. agriculture officials say tests on cow in the United States have come back positive for mad cow disease. Details soon.

Then I remembered that I don't eat meat.

You Blame the Child? We Blame You

Remember the mother who locked her son in the basement because her dogs were acting wild, and then blamed the child when he was killed after leaving the basement? Turns out not everyone agrees with her assignation of fault:

The mother of a 12-year-old boy fatally mauled by the family's pit bulls was charged Thursday with child endangerment.

Nicholas Faibish was killed June 3 by one or both of the family dogs when his mother went out to run errands.

Maureen Faibish, 39, found her son in a bedroom, covered in blood from several wounds, including a major head injury.

One of the dogs was shot and killed by a police officer shortly after the attack. The other remains in animal control custody.

"His parent made the decision to leave (Nicholas) alone in a situation that endangered his life and ultimately led to his death," prosecutor Kamala Harris said in a statement.

Sounds about right to me. Combined with the recent reinstatement of the murder conviction of Marjorie Knoller, owners of potentially aggressive or violent breeds ought to take note that they will be held responsible for the actions of their pets, regardless of their own disconcerting ideas about blame.

Atlanta Philanthropy

Some interesting info about my new hometown from Charity Navigator's 2005 Metro Market Study:

For the second year in a row, Atlanta's charities are the most efficient at fundraising: Atlanta's large charities rank 1st in fundraising efficiency (spending only $0.065 to raise a dollar in contributions) and 1st in fundraising expenses (spending only 4.5% of their budgets on fundraising costs), when compared to the other metropolitan markets in this study.

Like last year, Atlanta's charities are still growing more than any other city's: Atlanta's charities report the greatest program expense growth, with an annual growth rate of 9.7%. Their revenue is also growing faster than many other cities at a rate of 5.1% (ranked 9th). Both of these growth rates are well above the national median of 6.6% and 4.4% respectively.

CEOs in Atlanta continued to be well paid: The median compensation awarded to CEOs of Atlanta's largest charities is $150,000 (ranked 4th). This is much higher than the national median of $113,513, but slightly lower than the median value of $176,478 (ranked 1st) reported last year by Atlanta's charities. Only CEOs in New York City ($166,400), St. Louis ($157,871), and San Diego ($157,590) earn more.

Atlanta charities concentrated on religious and educational causes: Atlanta has more large religious and education focused charities than most cities in the nation.

There's some pretty interesting info in the study, and even more throughout the site, which is one of the most useful on the Internet right now.

District Court Divisions

Here's a curiosity. Taking a look at a map of the federal circuits, it seems like there are some pretty strange disparities in the number of districts into which states are divided. I don't know if it is a matter of population shifts outpacing boundary drawing, differences in how the population is spread throughout each state, or some crop circle-like alien disturbance.

But there is something unusual about states like Colorado (4.6m pop.), Minnesota (5.1m), Arizona (5.7m), and Massachusetts (6.1m) having only one statewide district, while Oklahoma (3.5m), Alabama (4.5m) and Tennessee (5.9m) each have three. Even West Virginia (1.8m), Arkansas (2.7m), and Iowa (2.9m) have two districts. What the heck is going on?

UPDATE: Will Baude emailed to let me know he recently pondered the same question and got some interesting responses.


Army vs. Yale

No, no, this is not about the Solomon Amendment or ROTC. It is much bigger. Starting in 2010, Army and Yale are renewing their football rivalry:

Yale will travel to West Point's Michie Stadium in 2010, the first time the two teams have met since 1996, the two schools announced Tuesday. The teams will meet again in West Point in 2012. "The Yale-Army series has a glamorous tradition and we are thrilled to have it back," Tom Beckett, Yale's athletic director said Tuesday.

The teams have met 45 times, with Yale holding a 21-16-8 advantage. Yale beat Army 28-0 in the first game between the two schools in 1893. The last time the two teams met, in 1996, Army beat Yale 39-13.

Now I'll have two chances each year to watch my teams pummel Yale.

Racial Divide in Soccer

The Guardian has an interesting article from a British perspective on the lily-whiteness of soccer in America:

Boston's Pop Warner "urban suburban" American football league collapsed earlier this month. Parents of the suburban 7-14-year-olds said that the urban kids played too rough. And urban playing fields were "unsafe". And that the urban kids played "intimidating" rap music.

You'll have worked out that "suburban" and "urban" are euphemisms and that this is a row about race and class. League director Al Perillo told the Boston Globe that white middle-class parents have been scared off by TV news reports of drive-by shootings. But they're also sick "getting beat 30-to-nothing every time they go to Boston".

As Wells notes, the European clubs and their contigent of racist fans are not models for healthy race relations. But at least the sport is integrated.

Shopping By Satellite

If anyone else happens to be in the market for a new home, or just likes the voyeuristic aspect of aerial views of the neighborhood, Google's satellite map feature is pretty nifty and very easy to use.

Things Are Getting Very Serious

PMBR's Multistate Bar Review flashcards are out of stock at Barrister Books. They are even running low on the brand new 18th edition of The Bluebook, though hopefully for different reasons (bar exam tip: no need for proper citations).

Home Depot Day Laborers

I needed to pickup a few household things today (bug spray, etc) and decided to take a first step in becoming a loyal Atlantan by shopping at Home Depot instead of Lowe's. The closest Home Depot is only a couple miles away, so I printed out some Mapquest directions and drove over.

It was the first time I ever saw day laborers. On one side of the street was Home Depot and its enormous parking lot. On the other side, three dozen Hispanic men standing in groups of two or three or four. I could not for the life of me figure out what they all were doing there. It was not until I was walking back out to my car after making my purchases that I pieced it together. A shiny new Land Rover pulled up with a thirtyish white male behind the wheel. Two groups of laborers raced to the car and the first three that got there piled in. They spoke with the driver for a minute, and then the Land Rover pulled out with three new employees aboard.

I do not know anything about the morality of this situation, whether these unpleasant and unstable working conditions are deplorable, or the best chance that these men have to make money for their families here or in their home countries. It was just a very strange thing to see, to be confronted point blank with one of the most vexing questions facing our country today.

Dog Kills Child; Dog Owner Blames Child

Think that headline is bad enough? How about the fact that the dog owner is also the mother of the victim:

The mother of a 12-year-old boy killed in his own home by one of the family's two pit bulls says she had been so concerned about one of the dogs that she shut her son in the basement to protect him.

Maureen Faibish said she ordered Nicholas to stay in the basement while she did errands on June 3, the day he was attacked by one or both of the dogs.

She said she was worried about the male dog, Rex, who was acting possessive because the female, Ella, was in heat.

"I put him down there, with a shovel on the door," Faibish said in an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle. "And I told him: 'Stay down there until I come back.' Typical Nicky, he wouldn't listen to me."

Yeah, those damn kids. They just don't know when to stay locked in the basement to avoid the vicious animals their parents keep around the house. Clearly it would not have made more sense to lock the dog in the basement, or maybe not have it around the house at all. Or, at the very least, to take some responsibility instead of blaming your recently mauled-to-death child.

GM Employee Discount

I think it is sadly ironic that I received this in my inbox the day that General Motors announced it was cutting 17% of its workforce, or 25,000 people.