Random commentary and senseless acts of blogging.
The first Republican president once said, "While the people retain their virtue and their vigilance, no administration by any extreme of wickedness or folly can seriously injure the government in the short space of four years." If Mr. Lincoln could see what's happened in these last three-and-a-half years, he might hedge a little on that statement.
Prisoners of Azkaban
Thursday, November 28, 2002
Maybe Avedon Carol didn't like being classified by Den Beste as a good liberal (see below). This marvelous slam on Kissinger being named to the 9/11 investigation is a little sharper than her usual writing:
Even I can't believe some of the stuff that comes out of this administration. The only reason they haven't got all of their convicted criminals and unindicted co-conspirators in this administration is because some are too busy doing talk radio or, in Nixon's case, in Hell, to join them.
Wednesday, November 27, 2002
SKBubba teaches me, too late, what I should have known in my freshman year at college.
Tuesday, November 26, 2002
Instaman, Clueless, and various others are discussing Jim Cappazolla's decision not to link to any bloggers that link to Charles Johnson's controversial LGF blog.
Glenn's original item raised the issue in terms of internet 'cocoons', using the web to seek out only those opinions you agree with and filter out those you dislike. He thinks this doesn't happen generally in blogs, although by citing two examples of liberals engaging in it, he clearly implies that it is a leftist tendency.
Actually, I think that cocooning happens all the time in the blogosphere. To my knowledge, only 4 generally conservative sites blogroll me. Of those, one is defunct and one blogs almost exclusively about the Middle East, where there isn't much conflict between their strong pro-Zionist positions and my own. That leaves only two blogs, one of them more oriented to humor than to political writing, that write about US politics from a relatively conservative viewpoint and blogroll this site. Maybe the others just have better taste, but that doesn't seem to be a problem for liberal political blogs. At least 30 have blogrolled me.
This isn't universal, but it comes pretty close. Almost all left sites, mine included, blogroll quite a few liberals and fewer or no conservatives. Almost all right sites tilt their blogroll in the opposite direction. Without looking very hard, you can find popular sites on both left and right without a single contrarian position in their blogrolls.
There's nothing wrong with this, really. A blogroll is part of the blogger's content, and a blogger is no more obligated to put up a balanced list than to put up unopinionated commentary. But it is cocooning, it is very widespread, and it is pretty much equal on left and right. It really just reflects a natural tendency - reading opinions that confirm the rightness of our views tends to be more enjoyable than reading things which attack them, regardless of what those views are.
One of the important ways that the tendency to cocoon in blogs is counteracted is by linking. I sometimes read conservative blogs specifically to look for interesting articles that I can criticize or react to. I always link to bloggers and posts or articles that I'm criticizing. You don't have to take my word for what somebody says, you can check out the site yourself and see if I'm characterizing their positions fairly. That's a central part of blog debates, so I'm much more bothered by this post, which implicitly criticizes several bloggers without linking to them, than by Jim's boycott of LGF. Den Beste says:
When I took a look at what sites were actually listed there, most of the ones I recognized are best described as "the usual suspects", and there was a clear ideological similarity to them. Any site which links approvingly to Warblogger Watch, This Modern World, Ted Barlow, Tapped, Sullywatch, Shadow of the Hegemon, Smirking Chimp, Media Whores, Eschaton, and Counterspin Central is applying a distinct filter to the choices. (Which is RR's privilege, of course.) I also found links to Brian Linse, Patrick Nielsen Hayden (and Teresa), and Avedon Carol, none of which do I consider extremist voices.
Den Beste's phrasing implies, without quite saying, that the earlier group of blogs and sites he lists, are 'extremist voices'. Some of those sites are unabashed take-no-prisoners lefties, but that's a pretty strange characterization of Ted Barlow or Tapped. If Den Beste is going to make it or suggest it, he should provide the links so his readers (many of whom probably don't read a lot of liberal sites) can judge on their own.
Incidentally, with all this commentary on Rittenhouse Review's boycott, one site that may not be taking it seriously is RR. It took about two minutes going through links to find a blog still linked by RR which links over to LGF.
Monday, November 25, 2002
The East Bay Express has published a strong expose over the past two weeks of the cultish local Black Muslim organization. Led by Yusuf Bey, the group has had a substantial presence and public respectability in Oakland for decades, in spite of overt racism and a series of crimes that led the stepmother of a girl molested by Bey to call the group and its influence 'Oakland`s dirty little secret'. The first part focuses on violence and sexual abuse; the second examines their close links to local political power and access to public money.
Although Bey is now being held to account for these allegations of rape and child abuse, his legal untouchability may once have extended far beyond such alleged sexual atrocities. In the late '90s, Allen Tucker was a resident of an apartment complex at 530 24th Street; in 1997, Bey family associate and apartment manager Basheer Muhammad allegedly led a crew of men in beating him unconscious. According to Tucker, associates of the Bey family did much more than this one alleged beating. In fact, he says, the Bey family terrorized the tenants with military drills in the parking lot and violent confrontations. And the cops, Tucker claims, did nothing to stop it.
"Everybody was under threat at that apartment building, even the neighbors," he says. "Every Sunday, they would come over and do these military marches. Every time they came around, you could feel the tension in the air. You knew when they came somebody was gonna get beat up."
Tucker claims that during the numerous confrontations he witnessed, neighbors called 911 but the police never bothered to show up. "The cops would never come," he says. "It was like they were given the okay, like the police wanted to let them do their thing. But their thing is criminal. One police officer, I remember he wanted to get them so bad. But his hands were tied. ... I guess Yusuf Bey's hooked in with the police or the mayor's office. I couldn't understand that."
Tucker's not the only one with stories like this. Two senior Oakland police officers claim that their department allowed Bey family associates to exact vigilante justice in certain neighborhoods in the mid-1990s. According to one officer, there was an unspoken rule among police patrolling the North Oakland beat: In certain neighborhoods, Yusuf Bey's men were going to clean up drugs and crime however they could, and the cops should just get out of the way.
"The methods they employed, we're not allowed to do that in a democratic society," this officer says. "The police aren't allowed to go around and beat up young black men. But during this time, if you were a Black Muslim, you had the permission to do that, and the police were told to look the other way." ...
Regardless of how it happened, just one year after Nedir Bey got off with nothing more than home detention, he received a magnificent gift from the city: $1.1 million in taxpayer money. Bey was the founder and chief executive officer of EM Health Services, which in 1996 asked for a $1.1 million city loan to build a business training nurses' aides and home health care providers to care for AIDS patients and other desperately ill people in low-income neighborhoods. The city just happened to have an ample fund ready to spend on such ventures: $50 million in cash from the Department of Housing and Urban Development, $22 million of which was to be disbursed by the city's One Stop Capital Shop to needy inner-city businesses rejected by traditional banks. The fund was specifically designed to revitalize struggling neighborhoods. Moreover, EM Health Services promised to make its money by giving comfort to the terminally ill -- an ancillary benefit that seemed to make the company an ideal candidate.
At first, some members of the city council had reservations. Councilmen Dick Spees and Ignacio De La Fuente worried aloud that Bey did not have enough collateral to secure the loan, noting that the family's bakery also owed $60,000 in back taxes. Although Your Black Muslim Bakery offered equipment allegedly worth $200,000 as collateral, city officials would later conclude that it was either worthless or already encumbered by prior liens.
But in the course of evaluating this loan, not one person in city government apparently asked why the city should lend $1.1 million to a man who just one year earlier had been convicted of a felony in which he allegedly tortured a man. The issue just never came up, according to Elihu Harris, who as mayor joined Spees, De La Fuente, and the rest of his council colleagues in approving the loan. "I don't know anything about it," Harris says. "I don't have any recollection of that. I'm not saying it didn't happen. But it was not a public issue, it was not raised by anyone I know." According to Mary Joseph, an employee of the city's Community and Economic Development Agency, the city's due diligence simply does not include checking for felonies. "It was not city policy at the time, nor is it currently city policy, to conduct criminal background checks on city loan applicants and their principals," Joseph wrote in response to a question by this paper. "Staff was not aware that Mr. Bey had pleaded no contest to a felony count of false imprisonment in 1995."
Joseph's department moved ahead with the loan in June 1996 -- and has regretted the decision ever since. Within months, city officials were complaining about how Bey was spending their money. By January 1997, agency employees and federal officials were questioning the following expenses: a $96,000 salary for Nedir Bey, $2,000 in cellular phone bills, $43,800 in consulting services, $12,600 for "security," $8,000 in "architectural fees," and $6,800 to lease a Cadillac Sedan DeVille for Bey's personal use -- although Bey later insisted that no city money was used to lease the car. Officials ultimately concluded that EM Health Services had spent $226,000 in excessive salaries and consultant fees in the second half of 1996 alone.
Meanwhile, Bey complained that the city wasn't disbursing the money fast enough. Although the city had agreed to pay the money in quarterly installments, officials soon realized that they had acquiesced before getting federal officials to sign off on the deal. After federal officials noted that Bey and the city had failed to complete all the necessary paperwork, Oakland chose to float Bey cash out of its own pocket -- albeit not as quickly as he wanted. As the city's cash flow slowed down, Bey started firing off angry letters to "the powers that be in Oakland." ...
Of course, Nedir Bey is not the only bitter party. On July 18, 2001, the city received a judgment against him for all $1.1 million. City officials are still trying to determine who, in addition to Bey, may be liable for the loan. To this day, not a penny has been repaid.
It should be noted that Bey and his followers are linked to Nation of Islam; which means that they teach the racial fantasies developed by Farrad Mohammad rather than the more mainstream Islam that most Black Muslim groups now employ.
Sunday, November 24, 2002
James Taranto is upset (no permalinks - 11/22) at Paul Krugman (now there's a surprise) for noticing the remarkable number of nepotism appointments in the Bush administration. He returns a rather weak shot citing Democrats who also had parents who were prominent in politics, although most of those Taranto lists are elected, not appointed. Apparently Taranto has forgotten that his own publication has seized the position, generally unsought in American politics, of being the defender of aristocratic privilege against the unwashed masses.
Saturday, November 23, 2002
NRO has some suggestions from Randy Barnett on how Republicans can appeal more to libertarians. The suggestions aren't bad, but it's safe to say that they will be ignored.
For instance, Barnett suggests that Republicans should try actually taking Federalism seriously. It's pretty safe to predict that the next two years will be long ones for those people who actually believe in state and local authority as a political rule instead of a convenient argument. Since rightists now control the federal government, they have no grounds for wanting to move either political or legal disputes from federal to state jurisdiction. So since it isn't expedient in current political circumstances, you can bet this 'fundamental principal' is going to be forgotten. Republicans have already shown eagerness to override local and state governments on everything from securities regulation to treatment of the Boy Scouts when it suited their purposes. Already there are plans to grab federal jursidiction over class actions, the better to kill them off.
As for privacy and the security of such basic rights as the right to be charged with an actual crime and be represented by an attorney, the Bush administration has already shown plainly where it stands. Just this week, they won the right to place wiretaps and bugs to build criminal cases without probable cause. 'Libertarians' who supported the Republicans have no grounds to complain when they see these rights undermined.
The problem with Barnett's whole presentation is that it's based on the belief that the GOP is, from a freedom standpoint, a basically good girl who may fall off the straight and narrow from time to time, but is pure at heart deep down. Regretably, there is no real basis other than wishful thinking for this assumption. When the Christian Coalition agenda reduces freedom, the GOP backs it. When corporate donors want government subsidies and a rigged market instead of a true free market, the GOP always has a sympathetic ear - for a price. Unfortunately, some folks just aren't able (or willing) to notice the difference between a lady with a past and a career whore.
Monday, November 18, 2002
Here's another US - Sweden economic comparison that, for some reason, Glenn neglected to blog: (link from Brad Delong)
It seems increasingly apparent that the secret to success is to have a successful parent. Consider some prominent examples: George H. W. Bush and George W. Bush; Bobby Bonds and Barry Bonds; Henry Fonda and Jane Fonda; Estée Lauder and Ronald Lauder; Julio Iglesias and Enrique Iglesias; Sam Walton and Jim, John, S. Robson and Alice Walton.
As more recent and better data have become available, economists have marked up their estimate of the impact of parents' socioeconomic status on their children's likelihood of economic success.
It turns out that the famous line attributed to Andrew Carnegie — "from shirt-sleeves to shirt-sleeves in three generations" — is an understatement. Five or six generations are probably required, on average, to erase the advantages or disadvantages of one's economic origins.
This represents a marked departure from past thinking. In the 1980's, when Gary S. Becker of the University of Chicago pioneered the economic theory of intergenerational transmission of economic status, it was believed that the correlation between a father's and son's income was only around 0.15 — less than half the correlation between fathers' and sons' heights.
The early studies suggested that if a father's income was twice the average, his son's expected income would be 15 percent above average, and his grandson's just 2 percent above average. This is fast "regression to the mean," a concept Sir Francis Galton used to describe the progression of offspring toward the average height.
Landmark studies published by Gary Solon of the University of Michigan and David J. Zimmerman of Williams College in The American Economic Review a decade ago, however, led economists to revise substantially upward the estimate of the similarity of fathers' and sons' incomes. They noted that income fluctuated for idiosyncratic reasons from year to year — an employee could lose a job, for example — so estimates that depended on a single year were based on "noisy" data. Also, the samples previously analyzed represented only a narrow slice of the population at different points in individual careers. These factors caused the correlation in annual incomes to understate the correlation in "lifetime" incomes.
Averaging earnings over five years produced a correlation of around 0.40 for fathers' and sons' earnings — the same as the correlation between their heights. If people's incomes were represented by their heights, the similarity in income between generations would resemble the similarity observed in the heights of fathers and sons....
Perhaps the only legitimate use of the intergenerational correlation in income is to characterize economic mobility. The data challenge the notion that the United States is an exceptionally mobile society. If the United States stands out in comparison with other countries, it is in having a more static distribution of income across generations with fewer opportunities for advancement.
Anders Björklund of Stockholm University and Markus Jäntti of the University of Tampere in Finland, for example, find more economic mobility in Sweden than in the United States. Only South Africa and Britain have as little mobility across generations as the United States.
This scientific test has determined, with 80% probability, that I'm a male. Better yet, it proves beyond doubt that I am mas macho than comparatively sissy bloggers Sam Heldman and Ampersand. I'm so proud, I think I'll go out and buy my penis some porn videos.
Harry Potter and the Cash Machine
The Harry Potter sequel is pretty enjoyable. All the cast from the original is back, along with Kenneth Branagh as Gilderoy Lockhart, a self-promoting twit who serves at the annual Defense Against Dark Arts replacement. Branagh hams it up shamelessly, which is perfectly in character. Another strong addition is Jason Isaacs as Lucius Malfoy, a character who, unlike Lockhart, will be returning in future installments. The returning cast members all turn in good performances. I especially liked Rupert Grint as Ron Weasley - his reaction when his mother sends him a nasty letter is priceless.
Towards the end of the first movie, I found myself nodding off and checking my watch. There was less of that this time - the story is stronger and builds dramatic tension more effectively, mostly a result of the source novel being better than the original. Like 'Harry Potter and the Sorcerer`s Stone', this film sticks closely to its source material, although some gratuitous action sequences that I don't remember from the book are thrown in. Also tending towards the gratuitous and intrusive is the musical score by John Williams.
This will be the last of the Harry Potter movies directed by Chris Columbus, whose work is more striking for technical proficiency and showy sequences than marrative skill. The next installment, not due until 2004, will be directed by Alfonso Cuaron, a much more exciting choice. Cuaron is the director of one of the better recent children's movies, 'A Little Princess' (1995), as well as the emphatically adult-themed 'Y Tu Mama Tambien' (2001), a marvelous film. The delay in releasing the next film may be due to Cuaron's commitments to his current project, an adaptation of P. D. James's 'The Children of Men'. It will be worth the wait to see what Cuaron does with the increasingly complex material of the next two novels.
Sunday, November 17, 2002
Offward, Christian Soldiers
One of the major local news stories for the past few weeks has been the murder of Eddie 'Gwen' Araujo, a pre-op transsexual teenager. Whether because of media self-censorship or prosecutors withholding information, the details of Gwen's murder are unclear, but it seems that she was tortured, strangled, and killed by three men, now under arrest, after having sex with one or more of them who later discovered she was a physical male.
The murder has caused unusual attention for a local High School's production of 'The Laramie Project', a play about the murder of Matthew Shepard. And the publicity brought out the followers of prominent nut job and publicity hound Fred Phelps.
In a world of spin and PR there's something almost refreshing about the unabashed nuttiness of the Phelps clan. There were 8 hate picketers at the play, and their slogans pretty clearly weren't market tested on focus groups, unless the testing consisted of checking to see what made people angriest. Along with the classic 'God hates fags", there were such winners as 'God hates America', 'God sent the sniper', 'No tears for queers', and the crowd pleasing 'Thank God for 9/11'.
The openness does have certain consequences. The local newspaper described the picketers as 'Phelps' son, daughter, daughter-in-law and five grandchildren'. In other words, after years of publicity and millions of web page views, Phelps turned out a grand total of 0 non-family supporters in an urban region of several million.
Phelps was planning to continue with pickets at several 'queer-friendly pseudo churches'.
Saturday, November 16, 2002
The letter delivered to the UN by Iraq reads like the work of a passionate but semi-literate High School student. It has to stand as one of the most incompetent pieces of propaganda I've ever encountered. Part of this is undoubtedly poor translation: the English version is sprinkled with simple grammatical errors such as, "The aggressionism of the United States of America and its single-handed infliction of injustice and destruction on those subjected to its inequity, in the forefront of whom are the Muslims and Arab believers, is the basic reason why America has withdrawn its ambassadors and other staff, close its embassies, and restrict its interests in many parts of the world, while reaping the hatred of the peoples of the world due to its policies and aggressive objectives."
But the original text must bear part of the blame. Even with corrected grammar, the sentence above is clumsy and redundant. At best, the whole thing reads like an impromptu speech by a mediocre orator. There is no logical argument or narrative flowing from sentence to sentence or paragraph to paragraph:
In the meantime, the gang of evil returned to talking about adopting a new resolution, or new resolutions, in order to create something for the world to talk about, other than following the work of the inspectors and then seeing the fact already stated by Iraq, which was that Iraq neither had produced or was in possession of any weapons of mass destruction, nuclear, chemical or biological, throughout the time of the inspectors' absence from Iraq. However, representatives at the United Nations and its agencies, especially those from permanent member-states, instead of fellowship up on this and, hence, expose those responsible for the dissemination of lies and fabrications, were busy discussing the type and wording of the new resolution. They were indulged in what word or letter to add here or omit there, until they adopted a text under the pretext that is would be better to take the kicks of a raging bull in a small circle than to face its horns in an open space. The text was adopted under the American Administration's pressure and threat that is would leave UN, if it did not agree to what America wanted, which is, to say the least, extremely evil and shameful to every honest member of the United Nations who recalls the provisions of its Charter, and sees that some people feel ashamed on behalf of those who are shameless.
We have said to the member of the Security Council whom we have contacted, or who have contacted us, when they told us about the pretexts of the Americans and their threat to perpetrate aggression against our country, whether unilaterally or with participated from others, if the Council were not to allow them to have their way, that we preferred, if it ever became necessary to see America carry out its aggressions against us unilaterally, when we would have to confront it relying on Allah, instead of seeing the American government obtaining an international cover with which to camouflage its falsehood, partially or completely, bringing it closer to the truth, so that it may stab the truth with the dagger of evil and confronted the United States before when it looked as it does now, and this was one of the factors of its isolation in the human environment on the globe at large.
If the author is Saddam himself, which seems probable, it would seem to indicate that he is losing it. That's good news - you don't want the enemy to be at the top his game. But an irrational Saddam is also more likely to attempt some suicidal grand gesture.
Andrew Sullivan is out of the box as the first right wing pundit to attack Al Gore's 'support' of a single payer health care system, first reported on ABC's Note. Matthew Yglesias correctly notes that the single payer system used in Canada is not actually the British system that Sullivan condemns, but shows no skepticism on the underlying story. One could also note that the British system Sullivan so roundly attacks is clearly valued by the British, however much they may complain about it. After all, Maggie Thatcher, famous both for her love of privatization and her willingness to openly embrace controversial proposals, never tried to change it in any serious way.
But I'm more curious about whether this whole story isn't yet another fabrication. The ABC story claims the statement was made "in front of (as best The Note can tell) only two members of the media". The media member who presumably gave them the story isn't identified. And there is no actual quote of either what Gore was asked or what his answer was - not that Gore 'quotes' as reported in the media can be trusted anyway. The media has been making up Gore stories and Gore quotations for years now. This story fits into a traditional anti-Gore meme (ABC in the first story was already labelling it a flip-flop, which it is, if Gore really is now supporting single payer) and an emerging anti-Gore theme that matches the emerging anti-Democrat theme (moving to the extreme left). So it is suspiciously convenient and ought to be treated with skepticism until it is supported by some type of credible information.
Of course, if it is true, it also goes against some of the traditional anti-Gore characterizations - single payer is notoriously unpopular in this country, so it certainly isn't the position of someone who will 'do anything to get elected', nor is it the position of someone who is driven only by polls. But notice you didn't see those being mentioned in these stories, and you won't see much about them in the future. The pundits know better than to emphasize truths which inconveniently undermine favored cliches.
Thursday, November 14, 2002
Now that Nancy Pelosi has been named Minority Leader, the smear campaign can't be far behind. In fact, it is already going strong.
The key theme to this campaign so far seems to be labeling Pelosi as a socialist. This is the political language or the attack machine: Democrats who aren't liberal are called liberals or ultra-liberals; Democrats who really are liberal are called socialists with the explicit or implicit association of being Marxist/Leninist/Stalinist.
The attack on Pelosi is based largely on her membership in the Progressive Caucus; Nathan Newman has shown how silly that is. It is also worth noting that the world's only remaining Marxist/Stalinist government of any real consequence is the People's Republic of China, and Pelosi is known for her defense of human rights in China. In the most important recent China vote, Pelosi opposed permanent MFN status for China, as did the Progressive Caucus. Among the Stalinists, commie sympathizers, and fellow travelers who voted to support the Chinese Communists were Trent Lott, John Ashcroft, Strom Thurmond, and Phil Gramm.
Congratulations to Brian Linse and Avedon Carol on the first anniversaries of their excellent blogs.
Wednesday, November 13, 2002
Attention Mac Thomason: Now that the snakehead threat is believed to be eradicated, the next piscean invader is the dreaded bighead carp. It can't walk, but apparently it can jump extremely well.
Best line in last night's Buffy: "I'm here to kill you, not to judge you."
Biggest mystery (spoiler): When and why did Spike apparently drop off the wagon?
Eve Tushnet beat me to commenting on Matthew Yglesias's odd assertion, "there is actually only one big question in political theory: Is there a God?". in his erudite discussion of various recent writings in political philosophy. A new post modefies this to the clearer but quite wrong, "if you think there is no God, then there are no more big questions in political philosophy".
If you think there is no god, then there still remain the problems of how people are to live together as individuals (ethics) and as a society (political philosophy). I don't see that the existence of God solves these problems at all. Basic problems of political philosophy such as balancing the goals of liberty and equality can be addressed entirely outside theology, and indeed it's unlikely that theology can have anything to say of them. The only question that is clearly impacted by the existence of God is the question of the origins of legitimate authority. Our political institutions are based largely on the belief that Locke's solutions to the basic questions of political philosophy are superior to those reached before him, and atheists, agnostics, and believers are all able to accept those institutions with that implicit belief.
If you do believe in God, that doesn't in any apparent way solve the problems of political philosophy or ethics. All it does is move them into a different category, making them (potentially) theological problems. But unless you also have a divine revelation available to give you the answers to these questions, they still have to be solved in any society.
Stating essentially human problems as theological ones is just likely to lead you to poor solutions. A famous, possibly apocryphal, saying of Dostoevsky is, "If there is no God, then anything is possible." That has always seemed to me the exact opposite of the truth. If you create an ethical or political philosophy without presuming the existence of God, then individuals have claims that are not easily brushed aside. If an ideology is built from the assumption that God created everything, those parts of creation which aren't obeying God's will become very dispensable indeed. No-one does violence more easily or enthusiastically than those who believe themselves to be instruments of God, working towards a new Eden which will appear as soon as those who refuse to see the light have been neutralized.
Sunday, November 10, 2002
For years now, the Japanese economy has been mired in an unending slump because, among other things, major banks have many billions of dollars in bad loans that they decline to write off and the government is afraid to force a write off, fearing that it would expose some major banks as actually insolvent. American media and economists have tut-tutted at geat length on this state of affairs, explaining that treatment of some companies as too big to fail shows the weakness of Japanese business and the superiority of American business practices.
With the recent Microsoft settlement, it is plain that American megacompanies are not only too big to fail, they're also too big to be expected to obey the law. The trial found that Microsoft violated the law; the settlement agrees. It's just that the Justice Department feels Microsoft shouldn't actually be punished for illegal activities, what with all those fat checks to the RNC.
Aside from harmful effects for consumers, the probable harmful effects for the economy as a whole are substantial. IT and particularly IT entrepreneurialism drove a great deal of the economic growth of the 90's boom both by generating new jobs directly and increasing productivity in other sectors of the economy. The harmful effects of the bubble in overpriced stocks of companies that had no viable plan for becoming profitable shouldn't make us forget that.
Microsoft now has an unprecedented ability to block IT innovation, and no real inducement not to. Indeed, it now quite effectively blocks innovation without doing a thing. A venture financer who agrees to fund a new software application, however valuable, would have to be regarded as defective in either competence or sanity. Either the market will embrace the new app and Microsoft will copy it, or the market will ignore the new product. Either way, there's no money in bringing it to market, so nobody is going to invest in doing so.
There are still numerous niches for enterprise systems, mostly designed around the needs of specific industries. But Microsoft has largely closed off any new applications niche, and has been successful in blocking or slowing innovative new computing devices that don't require a desktop running Windows.
Other companies will also be encouraged to violate antitrust and probably other laws, since they now know that all they have to do even if caught in illegal activity is draw out litigation until a friendly administration takes office and drops enforcement actions. But Microsoft's ability to dominate its industry and squash innovative products is based not only on its effective monopoly but also the structure and economics of the software industry, and is probably unique.
Wednesday, November 06, 2002
Meryl Yourish lists a few of the web pages blocked in Saudi Arabia. Oddly enough, this one isn't, and Monday I had my first visitor from a Saudi domain. I'm anticipating a special award from the Elders of Zion for this breakthrough in our global propaganda control.
Forget all this nonsense about control of the House, Senate, and Governorships. In truly important news, it remains legal by a landslide vote to sell coffee in Berkeley that is not organically grown. Plus Winona Ryder was convicted, which serves her right for drinking environmentally harmful coffee.
The final margin of victory for Davis was 5%, closer than I expected but not real close. Local pundits last night were discussing Simon's future. I think it looks a lot like 'go back to spending my inheritance'.
The sweep of all statewide positions by Democrats seems to have happened. McClintock lost by only 0.5% and gets a recount, but there's no reason to think it will help him. He did have the best commercials I saw this cycle, using an actor in a kilt to say he was the thrifty choice for Controller.
Democrats won both the open House seat (Condit's) and the new seat. No incumbent was defeated and, where no incumbent ran, no seats changed parties. Democrats still control both houses of the state legislature by safe margins, although they lost a few seats in the State Assembly.
Tuesday, November 05, 2002
Thune has a narrow lead in South Dakota, but the lead seems to be growing with most of the votes counted. A Republican Senate takeover isn't quite certain at this point, but it would require a near-miracle, and probably Chafee as well, to prevent it.
The Davis/Simon race is a virtual tie right now, and the newscasters are calling it a potential upset. Don't believe it. With 40% of statewide votes in, many rural pro-Republican counties such as Fresno, Kern, Kings, Amador, and others have reported 70 to 100% of their precincts. Strong Democratic counties San Francisco and Alameda are running slightly below 40%. Most importantly, only 7% of Los Angeles has been counted, meaning over 1/3 of the uncounted vote is coming from there. Simon would need a huge lead at this point to stand a chance; in fact he's trailing slightly. This is going to end up a runaway. Get your latest results here.
Dole wins in North Carolina to hold that seat; the Republicans gain their first Governor's pickup behind Benson in New Hampshire. In the really important contest, so far every race has gone in accord with the Nuisance's final predictions.
In early results, I've done some quick calculations and comparing tonight's county returns with presidential returns from 2000, I've found Cleland generally running 9 - 10 points ahead of where Gore ran in 2000. Unfortunately, if that pattern continues, it's a close loss because Gore lost Georgia by 11.7%. Still way too close to call.
As anticipated, Democratic gubernatorial pickups have started - Rendell in Pennsylvania and Blagojevich in Illinois are being projected as winners.
THe first result in a race that had been considered a possible key race has been called, with Lautenberg winning in New Jersey. I have just heard another one announced, Jeb Bush picked as the winner in Florida. Although these races had been considered close at one point, neither is a surprise based on recent developments.
The Pain, The Pain
Blithering bloggers and ridiculous readers alike will join me in mourning the death of Jonathan Harris, who died from a blood clot only a few days shy of his 88th birthday.
Harris played many roles in a long career, but will forever be the notorious Dr Zachary Smith, saboteur, sniveler, coward, and all around bad guy who stranded the Robinson family in space and pestered them through all their travels.
I never missed Lost In Space as a child. Lost In Space is not a pleasure that ages well. An adult may enjoy it for the utterly 60s atmosphere of the supposedly futuristic adventures and the occasional campy smile, but can't help noticing that it isn't really very good. But part of the sad sweetness of childhood pleasures is that they can't be re-experienced as an adult. I'll never again sit on pins and needles struggling to will into the TV set a warning to my childhood hero Will Robinson that Dr Smith can't be trusted, but I can still remember, at least a little, how passionately I once did. And the passion came in large part because Harris created Dr Smith as a wonderful villain, a man you could truly love to hate, yet one who would never understand why you didn't love him as much as he loved himself.
I'm going with pretty much the calls I made in earlier posts.
Senate: Democratic pickups in New Hampshire, Arkansas, and Colorado. Republican pickup in Missouri. South Dakota stays Democratic. Democrats win one from my list of possible upsets: Tennessee, Texas, N Carolina, S Carolina, Maine - most likely Texas. No other seats switch.
House: Democrats pick up 2 seats, leaving the House at 221-213-1. I pretty much pulled that number out of thin air, but if it turns out to be right, I reserve the right to assert that it was based on detailed study of individual races matched with my profound understanding of political trends.
Governor: Democrats take away or pick up Arizona, Illinois, Kansas, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Wisconsin. Republicans pick up New Hampshire, Alabama, and Vermont. Net result, D - 29 R -21. This is a little less optimistic than I had projected earlier, but it looks like Republicans will hold on in Texas, Florida, and Arkansas. If the night goes badly, there are other possible losses in South Carolina, Alaska, and Hawaii, but I'm calling those seats to stay Democratic.
In my home state, I predicted months ago that Davis would equal his landslide margin (about 16%) of 1998. That prediction now looks bad, but I stand by a Davis victory and don't think it will be especially close. I called a Democratic sweep of the statewide offices last month and I stand by that one, although as I mentioned Republican Controller candidate Tom McClintock has a shot at breaking the shutout. Democrats will also easily control both houses of the state legislature. The only real question is whether Republicans will hold enough seats to sustain a veto, and I think they will. Democrats will take the open Congresssional seat in the 18th District, Gary Condit's old seat, and will win the new redistricting seat. Not one incumbent from either party is going to lose, or even have to stay up late. The protection of incumbents in the state redistricting plan is a disgrace.
Monday, November 04, 2002
The Broward Numbers
There are 5265 available machiles according to this. 5765, which appeared in Pandagon's election blog and on Eschaton is a typo that overcounts it by 10% - maybe Atrios is lobbying for a job counting Republican votes in Florida!
The estimates I've seen for how long voting takes are 13 minutes or 15 minutes (first article linked). Averaging to 14 and figuring constant use for the 12 hour election period, 51 votes per machine can be cast, or 268,515 for the county. And that is including unrealistic optimistic assumptions: that every machine is in use the minute polls open, and every machine runs for the whole day with 0% breakdown. It's estimated that 80,000 ballots have already been cast in early voting or by absentee votes. Total possible ballots 350,000 out of 978,000 registered, which is just under 36% turnout.
In 2000, 575,000 votes were cast in Broward. Dropping the vote by 225,000 while keeping the same percentages would have given Bush an extra margin of 81,000.
A more optimistic assessment of Broward's preparedness is here, but that article doesn't address the ratio of voter to machine or how many voters the county is ready to handle.
Scott Koenig has a mixed slate of endorsements for California statewide races, picking both Democrats and Republicans. Amazingly enough, I'll be going more Democratic; in fact, I'll vote the full slate - although I would probably have gone for Riordan if he had been on the ballot.
Scott does make specific arguments for the Republicans he backs that are worth addresing. He criticizes Lieutenant Governor Cruz Bustamante, running for re-election, as "a loyal soldier to Governor Davis". Actually, the tensions between Davis and Bustamante are considerable, and will likely grow in a second term, when Davis will be a lame duck and Bustamante will be campaigning for his job. Bustamante's rival, Bruce McPherson is a nice enough guy and a political moderate. I won't be heartbroken if he wins, but he isn't going to.
Tom McClintock, running for Controller, is the only Republican candidate who might break through and actually win, although it would be a mild upset. He's a far right Republican with ties to the Christian Coalition. His opponent, Steve Westly, is that rare creature, a dot com zillionaire who is still rich - he made his money in Ebay, whose stock price never fell badly. Westly has sought to make hay of his opponents right wing positions in the campaign, but in fact it's hard to see how a controller could do much mischief in these areas. McClintock is a fiscal conservative with expert knowledge of the state budget, so if he sticks to the Controller's job, assuming he gets elected, he might actually do quite well. Westly has far less background in state government, but his business skills and general smarts should be an adequate substitute.
My strongest disagreement with Scott is for Secretary of State, which flows from his position on Proposition 52. Prop 52 would allow election day voter registration, while increasing penalties for election fraud. Democrat Kevin Shelley supports it; Republican Keith Olberg is opposed. Scott claims that elcetion day registration would lead to massive fraud, but there seems to be little evidence backing that assertion. Six states currently allow same-day voting, and there is no evidence that fraud has increased in any of them. What it has done is open up the process to less conventional candidates - same-day voters are credited with providing the margin of victory for Jesse Ventura.
Meanwhile, it was recently noted that the thousands of voters, primarily black, who were illegally purged from registration lists in Florida before the 2000 election have still not been reregistered. Mark Kleiman points out that Jeb Bush has essentailly guaranteed his re-election by installing an inadequate number of voting machines in heavily Democratic Broward County. The machines are being used for the first time, and early voting has shown that it takes on average 13 - 15 minutes for a voter to cast a ballot. Only 5,265 have been installed, meaning only about 23,000 votes per hour can be cast in a county with over 950,000 registered voters. Given that some machines will surely fail, and some will be empty during slow periods, the actual numbers figure to be even lower. Paper ballots to supplement the machines have been barred by the Secretary of State. So the biggest threat to a Bush victory, heavy voter turnout in Broward, has been rendered physically impossible. Florida continues to prove that state of the art election theft doesn't require election day registration.
Friday, November 01, 2002
Another one bites the dust: Joe Katzman is temporarily (we hope) shuttering his Winds of Change blog.
There are quite a few benfits to being a tenured professor. For instance, doing your job is optional. (Link via CalPundit.)