Monthly Archives: October 2011

Why the Rubio Biography Matters

David Frum lends his megaphone to Soviet escapee Andrew Pavelyev for Rubio’s False Biography – It Matters. Pavelyev’s not happy with Marco Rubio — or the media’s response to Rubio’s counter-offensive:

First of all, we need to recognize that Rubio lied. Until more than a day after the publication of the story, his biography on the Senate website contained this sentence: ”In 1971, Marco was born in Miami to Cuban-born parents who came to America following Fidel Castro’s takeover.” It is not an embellishment or exaggeration – it’s a lie. There’s no way to spin it. At the time his parents came to America Castro was living in exile in Mexico. He had not even started his takeover yet. In his counter-attack Rubio suggests that he made an honest mistake rather than lied: “My understanding of my parents’ journey has always been based on what they told me about events that took place more than 50 years ago — more than a decade before I was born. What they described was not a timeline, or specific dates.” With all due respect, this tortured explanation is itself a lie.

I can tell you from personal experience that if you come to America as an immigrant you never forget the moment. I immigrated two decades ago. My first child was born just two weeks ago. But you can bet that when he’s old enough to understand dates he’ll know the “timeline” and “specific dates”. And Marco Rubio expects me to believe that his parents never told him anything and that he never ever was curious enough to ask them when they immigrated or how long they have lived in America?

As the child of two immigrants, I can report that the part about immigrants knowing exactly when they arrived rings very true. And we were always interested in the story.

Furthermore, the Cuban revolution was the central event for his family and families all around him when he was growing up. That event was constantly talked about, and Rubio himself admits that when he claims having a deep understanding of what it means to lose one’s country (never mind its total irrelevance to American politics). Yet he never asked his parents what it was like to live under Fidel Castro, or how long they lived under him, or what it was like to leave Cuba at that time, or any other question that might possibly give him a clue that his parents never actually lived in Communist Cuba?!

We also need to recognize that it was a substantial lie.

It’s especially substantial, Pavelyev argues, because identity politics has been at the root of Rubio’s march to power.

Rubio would not have become the Florida House speaker (especially at such a young age), let alone senator if his parents had immigrated from Ireland rather than Cuba.

He’s got a point.

Posted in Politics: The Party of Sleaze, The Media | 2 Comments

Wendy Grossman Wants Me to Fear My Printer

Wendy is not an alarmist sort of person, and she has me scared. In Printers on Fire, she tells the tale of Columbia computer science professor Sal Stolfo and PhD student Ang Cui, who have figured out how to hack routers and set printers on fire by printing a suitably doctored c.v.

There’s an employment-related joke in there somewhere, I’m sure, but I’m still stuck on this part:

“In every LAN there are enormous numbers of embedded systems in every machine that can be penetrated for various purposes,” says Cui.

“We turned off the motor and turned up the fuser to maximum.” Result: browned paper and…smoke.

How? By embedding a firmware update in an apparently innocuous print job. This approach is familiar: embedding programs where they’re not expected is a vector for viruses in Word and PDFs.

“We can actually modify the firmware of the printer as part of a legitimate document. It renders correctly, and at the end of the job there’s a firmware update.”

Moral of the story: print more at work?

Posted in Sufficiently Advanced Technology | 3 Comments

‘Has the US Defense Department killed a million Americans since 2001?’

John Quiggin crunches the numbers for us and puts the actual estimate of foregone domestic health and safety due to spending on armaments and war at somewhere between 100,000 and 1,000,000 lives in the last decade:

The numbers are quite striking. The ‘peacetime’ defense budget is around $500 billion a year, and the various wars of choice have cost around $250 billion a year for the last decade (very round numbers here). Allocated to domestic risk reduction, that money would save 150000 American lives a year.

So, since 9/11, US defense spending has been chosen in preference to measures that would have saved 1.5 million American lives. That’s not a hypothetical number – it’s 1.5 million people who are now dead but who could have been saved.

More seriously, it’s not really plausible to think of eliminating defense spending altogether. But if the US spent 2 per cent of GDP like other rich countries (around $250 billion a year) and didn’t engage in wars of choice, it could have saved a million US lives over the past decade.

A still more serious objection is that money saved on defense wouldn’t be used to save lives anyway. …

First, even if the money was just handed back in tax cuts, around 15 per cent would probably be allocated to health care and more to things like education that are positively correlated with health status. Rounding to 20 per cent, that would still have saved something like 100,000 lives over a decade.

Just to put those numbers in context, that is somewhere between 27 and 274 lives at home per day. If you spent the money saving lives abroad, you get a lot more bang for the buck. Well, actually, less ‘bang’ as such since military spending is down, but it costs less — 100 time less he tells us — to save lives in poor countries, so the savings could have saved a million lives in a decade after all.

Posted in National Security | 3 Comments

Marco Rubio “Embellishes Facts”

I guess that’s as close to “lies” as the Washington Post will go about a Republican Senator.

During his rise to political prominence, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) frequently repeated a compelling version of his family’s history that had special resonance in South Florida. He was the “son of exiles,” he told audiences, Cuban Americans forced off their beloved island after “a thug,” Fidel Castro, took power.

But a review of documents — including naturalization papers and other official records — reveals that Rubio’s dramatic account of his family saga embellishes the facts. The documents show that Rubio’s parents came to the United States and were admitted for permanent residence more than 2 1/2 years before Castro’s forces overthrew the Cuban government and took power on New Year’s Day 1959.

via Marco Rubio’s compelling family story embellishes facts, documents show – The Washington Post

(Figured since I had one Marco-Rubio-related post already today, why not two?)

Posted in Florida, Politics: US | Leave a comment

Ten tips for giving a job talk that doesn’t suck

Howard Wasserman passes on Ten tips for giving a job talk that doesn't suck, written by FIU Associate Dean for Research and Faculty Development Joelle Moreno.

It’s first-class advice.

(It also reminds me that I’m behind schedule on posting my annual commercial for why you should teach here.)

Posted in Law School | Leave a comment

We Write Letters (Natural Born Citizen Dept.)

Dear Mr. Leary,

As a sometimes professor of Constitutional Law, I would like to point out a small issue with the lede to your article today regarding Marco Rubio’s eligibility to be President.

As printed in the Miami Herald, the article begins,

“Unable to prevent Barack Obama from becoming president, rigid followers of the Constitution have turned their attention to another young, charismatic politician many think could one day occupy the White House.”

The word I have a problem with is “rigid”. It is wrong to describe the view that “natural-born” means “born as the child of citizens” as being somehow a strict reading of the Constitution analogous to, say, a literal interpretation of the Bible or the “strict constructionist” school of constitutional interpretation. In fact, this reading is ahistorical and pretty nearly delusional. It has no support in case law or in history. To call it rigid is to suggest that there is some textual backing for it. There really is not. There may be the occasional comment here or there that can pulled out of context, but there is actually very little even of that, and nothing substantive, and it is not, and has never been, our law.

So the reading being proffered here isn’t “rigid” — it’s deviant, unprecedented, novel, extreme. No doubt these are all words newspapers hate to use in their quest to seem neutral. But an unwillingness to call something what it is should not push you into giving it even a shred of false legitimacy.

I might add that I am in no way a supporter of Mr. Rubio. That doesn’t change the the facts about our understanding of this clause of the Constitution.

Yours Sincerely,

A. Michael Froomkin
Professor of Law

Previously: Is McCain a “Natural Born Citizen”?

Posted in Law: Constitutional Law, The Media | 5 Comments

What The Wall Street Protesters Are So Angry About

CHARTS: Here's What The Wall Street Protesters Are So Angry About… via Business Insider.


Posted in Econ & Money | Leave a comment