Monday, August 27, 2012

Sign your name at the Top

Individuals less likely to lie if they had to sign at the top of the document instead of at the bottom

The team then partnered with a U.S. automobile insurance company for a real-world experiment. They sent out more than 13,000 policy-review forms, which asked customers to report the current odometer mileage of their cars. Half of the customers received a modified form, where the honesty statement and signature line appeared up top. Comparing these readings with the company's latest records, they found that customers using the sign-at-top form reported driving their cars more than those with the standard sign-at-bottom form. The results suggest customers with the standard form were more willing to report lower mileages to reduce their insurance premiums. 
Seeing the signature up front reminds people of their own moral standards, Mazar explained.

Jason Dana, a University of Pennsylvania psychologist, then speculates that the mere novelty of signing a document at the top may explain most of the effect.  Thus, if we were to sign all documents at the top, the novelty would abate and honesty levels would return to normal.  Nevertheless, in a tax self-reporting study, those signing at the top overstated their income only roughly half as much as those signing at the bottom.

When we swear an oath, we usually do so before we give testimony.  Therefore, our oath-taking action should occur prior, and not subsequent, to the speech action.  The positioning of a signature may not matter as long as oath takers direct their attention to the signature first.

Notably, courts employ more than oath-taking to ensure testimony is truthful and reliable.  Courts rely even more heavily on cross-examination, whereby an opposing party questions the witness, to establish the truth of the matter.  I wonder whether non-hostile perusal and questioning of individuals who have filled out forms would further increase the reliability of reporting.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Gov't Capture: Gov't Sachs

Via Geke.US

Gov't Capture: Monsanto

Via the Black Swan

Could Eminent Domain Seize Mortgage Loans?

Economic Depressions require Creative Solutions

Federal Budget: CBO's 'Fiscal Cliff'

Derek Thompson: CBO suggests Congress must act now

CBO projects that the so-called "fiscal cliff" -- a double-whammy of tax hikes and spending cuts -- in early 2013 will produce a short and sharp recession followed by rising unemployment throughout the entire year. 

Nobody should want the economy to crater again. Republicans and Democrats agree that 98% of taxpayers should benefit from the same low rates they have today. The GOP is as nervous about swift cuts to defense as Democrats are nervous about swift cuts to non-defense discretionary programs.
And so, we'll almost certainly get a deal. This is sure to make the staunchest deficit hawks furious.
[bold is mine]

Nobody wishes the economy to crater again.  But I would be furious with such a deal.  I'd like to see two of the three things happen which the CBO so fears: 
  • immediate across-the-board tax hikes (which effectively repeal the Bush tax cuts)
  • deep defense spending cuts
I would delay cuts to discretionary programs until recovery.  

Obama may finally play brinkmanship with the GOP; he's in a great position to get his lower 98% Bush tax cut extension without having to compromise with the GOP on the top 2% cuts.  He may yet blunder if he refuses to put defense cuts on the table to balance out discretionary cuts.  Unless he does, its possible the GOP may hold hostage non-defense discretionary cuts for a deal that would extend the top 2% Bush rates.  

2013 will be a poor year, anyway.  

A little more pain now; less lingering pain down the road.    

Welfare Work Requirements still in force

Conor Friedersdorf rebuts Romney's absurd charge, namely: the Obama Administration . . . gutted federal work requirements for welfare recipients, and that anyone can now collect a welfare check without even trying to get a job.

Tiny Explainer on Obama's Work Requirements

Recently, in response to a request from a bipartisan group of governors for more flexibility, the Obama Administration has said the federal government would consider waiving existing work participation requirements for states that were experimenting with "new, more effective ways" of helping welfare applicants find work, "particularly helping parents successfully prepare for, find, and retain employment."Critics of the move argue that it provides states enough leeway to water down work requirements, and that the executive branch lacks the legal authority to make the change. The administration has countered that the change is legal and gives states useful flexibility during an especially tough economy for the poorly educated.Either way, the Obama Administration hasn't gotten rid of the work requirement or laid out a new theory of what it ought to include. It has given states the ability to seek executive branch approval for new methods.
Obama's Executive Order allows experimentation at the State level.  How is that a bad thing?  I wish Romney supported Federalism as much as Obama sometimes does.

Reagan exaggerated welfare abuses for political gain.  Romney is worse: he's intentionally distorting welfare policy for political gain.

Apple's Assault on the East Asian Engineering Paradigm

Our opening link comes from the Verge:

Jury: Samsung copied Apple, should pay at least $1.049 billion in damages

After a surprisingly short time, court officials informed us that the jury in the Apple v. Samsung case had reached a verdict — and when it came, it wasn't good news for Samsung. The jury found in Apple's favor almost overwhelming, deciding that Samsung had infringement upon Apple's intellectual property with multiple devices. Apple won't be getting the more than $2.5 billion it had asked for, but it will be getting at least $1,049,343,540.
If Apple got 40% of what it asked the jury to award it, then it has done very well.  Its a defeat for Samsung, which lost on all of its counterclaims.

The jury didn't think much of Samsung allegations of infringement, either. They didn't feel that Apple had committed a single count of infringement — at least not anything that Samsung had demonstrated — against either Samsung's standards-essential or utility patents. As such, the company will be receiving nothing for its troubles. 
It wasn't all gravy for Apple, however. The jury found that the company's legal team didn't prove Samsung had broken any antitrust laws or violated its agreements with ETSI. Still, it was a meager get for Samsung, considering the jury also found that Samsung can't enforce its '516 and '941 patents against Apple due to "patent exhaustion" — in this case, the fact that Intel already has a licensing agreement with Samsung, and the company shouldn't be allowed to double-dip.
In case you  feel yourself second-guessing the jury, take a look at the smoking gun:

Apple seizes on Samsung internal document as proof of mimicry

Wired has a rather mediocre take on this whole affair.  Samsung presents itself as allied with the American consumer.  Not exactly.

“Today’s verdict should not be viewed as a win for Apple, but as a loss for the American consumer,” Samsung said in an official statement. “It will lead to fewer choices, less innovation, and potentially higher prices.” 
Indeed, since the jury deemed Apple’s iPhone-related design patents and user interface patents infringed across such a wide spectrum of products, other handset makers — Android manufacturers, in particular — may find themselves in Apple’s sights for future patent litigation. 
“The result will likely be an increase in costs to Android users because of licensing fees to Apple,” Houston-based intellectual property lawyer Steve Mitby told Wired. In layman’s terms: expect Android phones to cost more. “This will drive many Android consumers over to Apple. Next to Samsung, the biggest loser today is Google.”

Apple is the only true innovator.  Knock-offs are not choices, they're just knock-offs.
“The Federal Circuit has a history of scaling back big damages awards, which may spell trouble for Apple’s $1 billion in past damages,” Mitby said. ”However, on the core issues of infringement and validity, the Federal Circuit is less likely to reverse. So even if Samsung is able to reduce the monetary award, the jury’s decision spells trouble for the future of Samsung’s product line –- which is an even bigger financial issue for Samsung.”

Incorrect.  The judge has not awarded punitive damages yet and the $1 billion figure constitutes only actual damages.  In reality, the total dollar figure Samsung may owe to Apple will more likely be larger than that reported this week.  

In this case, Samsung embodied the East Asian Engineering Paradigm.  Top engineers, mostly educated in the West, are assigned to decode and then copy Western innovations.  They sell these near knock-offs very dear domestically and behind high protective tariffs.  Domestic sales subsidize entry into the American market.  

Usually, the East Asian Engineering Paradigm works.  But Apple has struck back.