Author Archives: Michael Froomkin

Hunter S. Thompson at Yale

Weird just like you’d expect. Yale, Hunter S. Thompson and the Social Contract: the Good Doctor in Drag by Alan Farago.

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How to Fix a Nasty Android Phone Bug (esp on HTC M8)

You may have noticed in the last few days that some apps don’t work right on your android phone – they close as soon as you open them, or in the middle of using them. I had this problem with Handcent, and also with clicking on (most) articles on some (but not other) apps from online news sources. Many other apps are also closing unexpectedly. This is certainly a problem in my HTC One M8, and I gather it has hit some android tablets too.

The source of the problem is an update Google did to the “Android System WebView” app. Despite looking like an app, this is really part of the Android operating system: Google is moving to transition from having all Android updates come in Android version releases and spinning off parts that it update more quickly (and behind the back of the phone makers and cell phone companies) via the Play Store.

To solve the problem you must do 3 things:

  1. Turn off automatic app updates in the Play Store (unless they are off already). This will mean you’ll have to go in and accept updates by hand every day or two, but it’s worth it. Alternately, in Androd 5.x you can just find the “Android System WebView” app in the Play Store, then tap on the three dots in the upper right and make sure “Auto-update” is unchecked. This won’t change your global settings.
  2. Go to settings, App Manager, find the “Android System WebView” app, and uninstall the updates. This will revert the app to a working version. It might be insecure, but at least it will work.
  3. Do not accept offers to update the “Android System WebView” app (or if it does update repeat step 2), until there’s a version more recent than 42.0.2311.129 dated Apr 24, 2015, which is the bad one.

No word from Google yet when they will fix this. You’d think HTC would be on to them about it.

Posted in Android, Sufficiently Advanced Technology | Leave a comment

Why Coral Gable Should Use STV for Commission Elections

Because Coral Gables does not have run-off elections, there is always a risk in multi-candidate Commission elections that a person might elected with less than a majority vote.  Indeed, this has happened more than once in recent memory, with the most recent case being now-Commissioner Slesnick who was elected with 32% of the vote in a six-candidate race.

A run-off, however, would be expensive, and also risks declining voter participation. Voter participation is already low enough in the April off-year election. One solution would be to move the election to the ordinary primary date in August, and have any necessary run-off in November. I have detected very little appetite for this among Commissioners and other movers and shakers in the Gables. The reasons vary. Some people think that too many people are on vacation in August. Others think that too people who don’t care much about local government would vote (the polite term for this is ‘fear of low-information voters’). Still others think that the non-partisan character of the race would be overrun with the partisan fervor of the regular election. And yet others fear that come November UM students would have too much sway. I don’t agree with most of these views, but they’re out there.

Fortunately, there a solution to the problem of running a fair multi-candidate election that produces a majority winner without having to change the election date or having a second, runoff, election. The solution is to switch from the current first-past-the-post voting system to Single Transferable Vote (STV), also known as Instant Runoff Voting.

With the very able help of my research assistant,  Steven Strickland, I’ve written a memo which outlines some of the advantages of using STV and sent it to each of the five members of the Coral Gables Commission. I hope that Coral Gables will consider changing to STV for future elections to ensure that our elected officials have the support of the majority of the electorate, and are seen to have that support.

The text of our memo, reformatted to make it more web-friendly, is below.
Continue reading

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‘Thinking Like A Lawyer’ Proved to Exist

‘Ideology’ or ‘Situation Sense’? An Experimental Investigation of Motivated Reasoning and Professional Judgment:

This paper reports the results of a study on whether political predispositions influence judicial decisionmaking. The study was designed to overcome the two principal limitations on existing empirical studies that purport to find such an influence: the use of nonexperimental methods to assess the decisions of actual judges; and the failure to use actual judges in ideologically-biased-reasoning experiments. The study involved a sample of sitting judges (n = 253), who, like members of a general public sample (n = 800), were culturally polarized on climate change, marijuana legalization and other contested issues. When the study subjects were assigned to analyze statutory interpretation problems, however, only the responses of the general-public subjects and not those of the judges varied in patterns that reflected the subjects’ cultural values. The responses of a sample of lawyers (n = 217) were also uninfluenced by their cultural values; the responses of a sample of law students (n = 284), in contrast, displayed a level of cultural bias only modestly less pronounced than that observed in the general-public sample. Among the competing hypotheses tested in the study, the results most supported the position that professional judgment imparted by legal training and experience confers resistance to identity-protective cognition — a dynamic associated with politically biased information processing generally — but only for decisions that involve legal reasoning. The scholarly and practical implications of the findings are discussed.

Spotted via Solum, Kahan, Hoffman, Evans, Devins, Lucci and Cheng on Experminental Assessment of the Effects of Motivated Reasoning on Actual Judges.

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The Rise of Robot Governance

With R2D2's Creatornet.wars: Multiplicity has the best write-up of We Robot 2015 that I’ve seen yet.

My favorite quote:

[David] Post led the discussion to broader questions: if you’re going to intervene in the development of new norms and law, when do you do it? How do you do it while remaining flexible enough to allow the technology to develop? Particularly with respect to privacy and teens’ willingness to share information in a way that scares their elders, “Could we have had that conversation in 1983?”

This is the heart of We Robot: the co-chairs, Michael Froomkin and Ryan Calo run the conference precisely to try to get ahead of prospective conflicts. So Froomkin’s answer to Post’s question was to note that being “in the room” matters. Had “just one lawyer” been present when engineers were creating the domain name system its design could have been different because that lawyer would have spotted the issues we have been grappling with ever since. “People with different backgrounds and perspectives spot problems,” he said, “and also solutions.” And, he added, those changes are easier at the beginning, when there’s less deployment and less money invested.

And yes, as I said at the conference, one of the main things I’ve learned from 15+ years of Internet policy research is that ‘Who is in the room’ when decisions are made is about as important as anything else.

(The photo is of Tony Dyson, the designer of the original R2D2 (top left), and two other happy happy conference-goers.)

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2015 Coral Gables Commission Election Results

Coral Gables mayor Cason and commissioner Quesada re-elected, joined by newcomer Slesnick:

With 27 of the city’s 27 precincts reporting, Cason won 57 percent of the vote to Ralph Cabrera’s 43 percent. Quesada, 35, an attorney seeking a second four-year term, posted a commanding lead over Enrique Lopez, 62, an IT consultant and lobbyist: 73 percent vs. 27 percent.

And in the highly contested Group V seat … Jeannett Slesnick garnered 32 percent of the vote in the crowded field. Her closest opponent was Tony Newell with 25 percent of the vote, followed by Sandra Murado with 19 percent, Ariel Fernandez with 16 percent, P.J. Mitchell with 6 percent and Jackson Rip Holmes with 1 percent.

At some point I’d like to work out how much these correlate with campaign spending. Just eyeballing it, the correlation looks pretty high, which is sort of sad.

Update: Detailed results at CoralGablesCentral.com.

Posted in Coral Gables | 1 Comment

Coral Gables Commission Group V Election: Six Candidates in Search of a Plurality

There are six candidates for Coral Gables Commission Group V, so it will not take many votes to get a win in what has recently been a low-turnout election. There is no run-off (there should be). We’re fortunate to have so many candidates who mean well, and want to devote a substantial amount of their time to helping run the city.

Forget the so-called crime issue. The important questions are development and infrastructure. Personally, I am sort of middle-of-the-road on the development question. I am not against a substantial amount of development so long as the City manages it properly: demands parking, anticipates and resolves traffic bottlenecks, keeps spillovers away from residential areas, and generally beefs up City infrastructure to anticipate the new demands from all these new homes, offices, and businesses. Elections, however, don’t do nuance well.

One candidate stands out for his pro-development stance: Tony Newell (see Tony Newell is Not a Libertarian). If that’s what you want and can overlook the anger management moment from the second debate, I suppose that he’s your candidate. But he isn’t mine.

I’ve again decided not to vote for perennial candidate and convicted felon Jackson Holmes even though I’ll admit he does grow on you a bit over time.

I’ve also decided that I will not be voting for Ariel Fernandez (see Ariel Fernandez – a Grass Roots Candidate With a Past).

That leaves three candidates to pick from: PJ Mitchell, Sandra Murado, or Jeannett Slesnick.

Two candidates stand out for their anti-development stances: Jeannett Slesnick Jeannett Slesnick: the Big Name in the Race) and PJ Mitchell (see PJ Mitchell — Sincere and (Too?) Frugal).

Sandra Murado is the wild card. She’s tough, smart, and a diverse group of voters seem to like her enough to recommend her. But she’s also hard to figure out. (See Sandra Murado’s Confusing Candidacy.)

Slesnick seems committed to process values and brings a long knowledge of the city; Mitchell’s selling point is that he comes off as a really sincere person.

The negatives on Slesnick are (to some) her husband’s Mayoralty, to others her campaign warchest, and to yet others her age. None of these are good arguments. A better argument against her is that she hasn’t been an impressive public speaker and seems to be running as much on her experience as any particular program or vision; balanced against that is her demonstrated ability to put the development issue on the agenda.

PJ Mitchell is an outsider candidate. He also presents as one of the more conservative candidates; part of that might be his soft, slightly southern, accent, but part of it seems to be an instinctual aversion to spending.

All three of them make a credible case for our votes.

Who are you voting for, and why?

Posted in Coral Gables | 7 Comments