Tuesday, April 28, 2015

SAPR Day, 2006

Languishing in YouTube obscurity is an Air Force SAPR (Sexual Assault Prevention and Response) video I originally watched in ~2006.  After some initial CSAF boilerplate, the video shows a re-enactment of the run-up to a sexual assault.  (The video should start playing at the beginning of the dramatization, just shy of 7 minutes in.)

In the early days of the current obsession with “sexual assault” in the military, the leadership of the Air Force, God bless them, hadn’t yet realized the intended program was about power and intimidation; they actually thought that they should try to, you know, prevent sexual assault, and quite reasonably assumed that this should be an effort that should address both male and female behavior.  This video is what they came up with.  While not without its problems, I was impressed that the vignette describes what, nineteen times in twenty, has become standard bar game:  handsome guy chats up cute girl, plies her with drinks and takes her home.  And in those nineteen times, what happens might lead to no worse than morning-after regrets or, in some cases, a trip to an abortion clinic.

But its that twentieth case that leads many people (me, for instance) to warn their daughters:  abstract sexual ethics aside, this kind of behavior can result in traumatic, soul-destroying outcomes.  We can – and should – debate whether the events in the film are legally actionable, and how in these circumstances the standard of proof could be met.  But that’s just cleaning up the mess.  The lesson young ladies should take away is:   as much as it depends on you, don’t make the mess.  It’s not about “blaming the victim,” it’s about staying out of harms way.

Unfortunately, it is a message the Air Force has now largely cast aside.  The SAPR 2015 season cranked up this week, and the kindest thing I can say about it is that I’ll have no shortage of blogging material.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Elastic Raisins

It will surprise no one that I support the Hornes in their legal challenge, currently before the Supreme Court, to the partial confiscation of their raisin crop by the federal government under a price-support program. But this part of Ilya Somin's post attracted my attention:

Michael McConnell, the prominent constitutional law scholar representing the Hornes, pointed out that his clients are probably still net losers from the program, even if you take into account the way in which they benefit from having a higher price. They would likely be better off if they could sell a larger quantity raisins at the lower price that would prevail in a freer market, than by selling fewer raisins for a higher price under the cartel scheme. Deputy SG Kneedler claimed this was not true because the demand for raisins is so “inelastic” that consumers would not buy more of them if the price were lower. That claim goes against basic economics 101, and I highly doubt that the justices will buy it.

Kneedler's estimate of the "elasticity of demand" (i.e., the price-sensitivity of raisin consumers) may or may not be true -- more on this later -- but it doesn't "go against econ 101". On the contrary, it is econ 101, as any actual basic economics textbook will confirm: the demand for some products, over certain price ranges and in certain economic contexts, doesn't change much in response to fluctuations in price. My own demand for raisins would be an example: I don't actually know what I pay for raisins, a pretty sure sign that a fall to any price above zero would not induce me to increase my family's consumption of raisins. Indeed, a rise in price would have to be large enough to attract my attention to the price in the first place before it would have an impact; I suspect that rise would have to be several multiples of its current price.

But I may not be the marginal raisin consumer. Many families whose food budgets are much more constrained "shop the sales" and might quickly switch to other products in response to changes in price. But that is an empirical question and cannot be settled merely by appeals to "basic economics".

Monday, April 06, 2015

Career Counseling Needed

Ace's Gun-of-the-Week entry a while back was the MP-44, a German WWII automatic rifle from which the Soviets apparently borrowed heavily for the AK-47. Its primary designer was Hugo Schmeisser, whom the Allies handed to the Soviets at the end of the war. I recognized the name from the Frederick Forsyth novel, The Dogs of War; ironically, however, the "schmeisser" sub-machine guns used in the novel likely refer to the MP-40, a weapon in the production of which Hugo Schmeisser himself was not involved.

I read The Dogs of War as a child and wanted to verify my recollection regarding the schmeisser; that page linked to the one for the real-life soldier of fortune Rolf Steiner, about whom is written:

In 1949, at the age of 16, Steiner decided to study for the priesthood. He intended to become a Catholic missionary in Africa. Following an affair with a nun at school, however, he decided that the military offered a more interesting life.

Well, yes.