Friday, March 14, 2003

Call for a Really New Evidence Scholar(ship): A Pressing Need for a Really Good Translator

During the last thirty years there has been an explosion in the systematic study of methods of analyzing and arguing about evidence and evidentiary processes. The depth and variety of the study of such methods have increased enormously. For example, Bayesians are exploring Bayesian logic and methods with a depth & subtlety not seen before. Beyond these novel approaches to old-hat Bayesian theory, non-law scholars in many fields are plumbing matters such as temporal & tense logic; planning theory; artificial or computational intelligence; artificial life; various theories of "argumentation" (including dialogue and the logic of rhetoric); various and numerous methods of making use of networks & graph theory (e.g., David Schum's directed acyclic graphs embedded in ancillary networks, Judea Pearl's causal networks, Howard's or Schachter's version of influence diagrams, social network analysis); connectionist processing; parallel & distributed processing; data mining (including "intelligent" data mining); various theories and methods of abduction or abductive inference (see, e.g., John Josephson, David Schum, Umberto Eco); fuzzy and rough set theory; theories of self-regulating agents; new theories of induction; and on and on and on. Many of these "arcane" methods are now deployed in the "real" world -- some of them, for example, help make Japanese trains run fast and others help Microsoft search engines and software bug diagnosis programs work, and some of these methods help to predict the weather.

Despite the importance of such developments & fields -- developments & fields that hold important keys to the way human beings do or might make sound judgments about the world --, most legal scholars in Evidence are only faintly aware of these disciplines and studies (even though some of our number know a fair amount about a relatively small sample of these disciplines, fields, and studies). This kind of ignorance is practically inevitable: just keeping up with diverse developments in modern logic is a full-time job. And that's why I am issuing this plea.

Legal scholars - Evidence scholars, in particular - need an interpreter: they need the services of scholars who know something about the sorts of matters just mentioned and can explain their meaning to Evidence scholars. Formerly, there were a few scholars did a bit of this sort of thing - this important job of translation - but those erstwhile and occasional translators are now busy with other matters. Therefore I urge you to be on the lookout for enterprising new scholars who can help educate legal scholars in evidence about the new wave of logic and evidence scholarship -- and who can do so well enough so that legal scholarship in evidence has the right to keep the name it claims for itself.

Those who do not know history ...: The Importance of Keeping Centripetal Forces in Check?

New York Times Section A; Page 8; Column 4; Foreign Desk (Aug. 2, 1991):

Following are excerpts from President [George H.] Bush's speech today to the Ukrainian Parliament:

In Ukraine, in Russia, in Armenia and the Baltics, the spirit of liberty thrives. But freedom cannot survive if we let despots flourish or permit seemingly minor restrictions multiply until they form chains, until they form shackles...

And yet freedom is not the same as independence. Americans will not support those who seek freedom in order to replace a far-off tyranny with a local despotism. They will not aid those who promote a suicidal nationalism based upon ethnic hatred.



UKRAINE, "the breadbasket of Europe" is a land famous for its fertile black earth and its golden wheat. Yet, only forty years ago seven million Ukrainians starved to death although no natural catastrophe had visited the land. Forty years ago the people starved while the Soviet Union exported butter and grain. While Moscow banqueted, Ukraine hungered.

Stark, cold, statistics, the accounts of thousands of Ukrainian survivors and German; English and American eyewitnesses, as well as confessions of Moscow's agents and the admission of Stalin himself: All these have slowly seeped out of the Iron Curtain and have been piled into a tremendous mountain of facts. The whole story, pieced together like a jig-saw puzzle, ends with the biggest puzzle of all: Why did Moscow decide to starve to death seven million Ukrainians?


William Safire, "Victory in the Baltics," New York Times Section A; Page 37; Column 1; Editorial Desk (Late edition, Nov. 21, 2002):

In those days, the breakup of the powerful Soviet Union was not so inevitable. But because of their unique diplomatic status, the Baltic States -- Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania -- were seen by U.S. hard-liners as the path to the end of the hollowed-out Soviet empire.

The elder President Bush was blind to this opportunity. On the contrary, on a visit to Kiev he urged Ukrainians to stay with Moscow. (He was furious when his talk was labeled the "Chicken Kiev" speech in this space, and has not spoken to me since.)


With freedom comes opportunity: In no-longer-occupied Latvia today, the average age of ministers is 38, and the president, foreign minister and speaker of Parliament are all women.

So is the crusading editor of Diena, Latvia's most influential newspaper. Those were hard but exciting times, says Sarmite Elerte in Riga, remembering the heady days of rising resistance to tyranny. Now we are a happily boring Western country..)


So what say you all: should the Kurds in Iraq be trusted to exercise the autonomy - not independence, for this they have forsworn -, can and should the Kurds in northern Iraq be trusted to exercise responsibly the autonomy within Iraq that they already have and that they want to preserve? Or must the United States betray the Kurds - again -, this time for the purpose of persuading the Turks to collaborate with the coalition of the willing in the armed struggle against Saddam Hussein? Do we face a tragic choice? Or is this - the [possible] breaking of Kurdish eggs - just another example of countless instances of the callousness of the powerful toward powerless ethnic and national groups? (I wonder: if the Russians continue to offer resistance to American suasion in the Security Council, will the State Department be moved, now, to complain, loudly, about Russian atrocities in Chechnya?)

Thursday, March 13, 2003

Kurds, Eggs & Omelettes

Is it true that a President Bush is about to betray the Kurds -- again? See Nicholas D. Kristof, "Torture, Beyond Saddam," New York Times (online) (March 14, 2003).

Monday, March 10, 2003

Readin', Writin' & -- yes -- 'Rithmetic Too

I almost forgot: if you want to write about evidence, you should also read about it. A good place to start -- and finish? -- your reading is M. MacCrimmon & P. Tillers, eds., THE DYNAMICS OF JUDICIAL PROOF: COMPUTATION, LOGIC, AND COMMON SENSE (Physica- & Springer-Verlag, 2002) (vol. 94 in series STUDIES IN FUZZINESS AND SOFT COMPUTING, Janusz Kacprzyk, editor).

table of contents

There is a bit of 'rithmetic in this readin' material. But there is also common sense there. You can't ask for more than that!

Achieve Knowledge and Renown: Study Evidence and Write about It Too!

Begin by attending the conference on "Inference, Culture, and Ordinary Thinking in Dispute Resolution" -- see conference home page; conference program ; and registration page and information -- and see and hear notables such as the [literal] inventor of [the phrase] "artificial intelligence," John McCarthy (see his home page).

Follow up by composing an article relating to law, probability, and risk; and then publish your article in a pioneering -- "pathbreaking"? -- Oxford University Press journal, "Law, Probability and Risk: a journal of reasoning under uncertainty."

Famous Lost Words: Looking Forward to War with Iraq

Gary Hart, "The Military's New Myths," New York Times, Section A p. 23 (January 30, 1991):

[T]he real combat -- on land -- has yet to begin. There we face a numerically equal, reasonably well-armed opponent defensively deployed. The Iraqi Army has 28,000 Milan antitank weapons, 2,000 Hot airborne antitank weapons, 700 Exocet air-to-surface missiles and 60 Roland mobile antiaircraft missiles. All make the Scuds primitive by comparison.

They will do great damage to allied armored columns and cause considerable inconvenience to supporting air and sea assets.

The Ancestral French Spirit: Flora Lewis, "Mitterrand's Cynical Gaullist Posturing," New York Times, Section A p. 23 (January 16, 1991):

Domestically, Mr. Mitterrand is affected by a new wave of anti-Americanism emanating from an unusual combination of the left, and not only the Communists, and part of the right. Both have decried the prospect of war and what they consider weak-kneed submission to America's will. Some critics make President Bush and Saddam Hussein equivalent, and some argue that Mr. Bush is mainly to blame. France, they say, should show its "difference."


France has long claimed "privileged relations" with Iraq, earned by massive supplies of advanced arms and credits for some 15 years. The press still likes to quote Baghdad bazaar merchants saying, "We trust France more than anybody." Whatever Mr. Hussein does to the French and everybody else, the French believe this because they feel they ought to be liked best.

... [T]here have been no political polemics and little public reminder of the French role -- second only to Moscow's -- in building Iraq's arsenal. That is because all governments have sustained the policy, established by Premier Jacques Chirac [emphasis added] under President Valery Giscard d'Estaing, of shoveling weapons to Iraq.

From the beginning of the crisis, France dithered, making appropriate noises of shocked disapproval and suggesting ways of "saving face" for Saddam Hussein. The first French gesture of armed participation was to send the carrier Clemenceau with a great departure ceremony--and no planes, only helicopters.

Meanwhile, Mr. Mitterrand's Defense Minister, Jean-Louis Chevenement, made clear his disagreement about acting against Mr. Hussein. He had been a leader of the Franco-Iraqi friendship society and told people he admired Mr. Hussein because he "is secular and a socialist." Anyplace else, he would have been fired. He was only quietly reminded of his duty and kept on, free to say a week ago that war could be avoided if Mr. Bush would make "a very little gesture" of promising a conference on Israel.

Richard H. Ullman, professor of international affairs at Princeton University, "Flunking World Order 101," New York Times, Section 1 p. 25 (January 12, 1991):

The President has declared that his patience with Iraq is wearing thin. But patience is just what is needed for this one or two or even three year experiment to succeed. If Mr. Bush decides to attack, the experiment will be ruined. The world will not learn whether strong economic sanctions, imposed by a nearly united international community, are sufficient to reverse an act of armed aggression.

New York Times, "CONFRONTATION IN THE GULF; War and Peace: A Sampling From the Debate on Capitol Hill," Section A p. 8 (January 11, 1991):

Senator George Mitchell

Despite the fact that his own policy of international economic sanctions was having a significant effect upon the Iraqi economy, the President, without explanation, abandoned that approach and instead adopted a policy based first and foremost upon the use of American military force. As a result, this country has been placed on a course toward war. This has upset the balance of the President's initial policy, the balance between resources and responsibility, between interest and risk, between patience and strength.

. . .

Senator Edward Kennedy:

War is not the only option left to us in the Persian Gulf. The President may have set Jan. 15 as his deadline, but the American people have not. Sanctions and diplomacy may still achieve our objectives, and Congress has the responsibility to insure that all peaceful options are exhausted before resort to war. Unless we reach that stage, Congress ought not to authorize the President to use force.

At this historic moment, it may well be that only Congress can stop this senseless march toward war.

It may become necessary to use force to expel Iraq from Kuwait, but because war is such a grave undertaking, with such serious consequences, we must make certain that war is employed only as a last resort.


... Most military experts tell us that a war with Iraq would not be quick and decisive, as President Bush suggests; it'll be brutal, and costly. It'll take weeks, even months, and will quickly turn from an air war to a ground war, with thousands, perhaps even tens of thousands, of American casualties.