jwgh: (TILT)
I got the August issue of Harper's in the mail yesterday and read the essay by Kevin Baker titled "A Fate Worse Than Bush: Rudolph Giuliani and the politics of personality". I was interested in reading this, because my opinion of Mr. Giuliani is not very high and I was interested in reading a critique of him. This is what I got.

The article begins: "Rudolph Giuliani has, by far, the most dubious known personal history of any major presidential candidate in American history, what with his three marriages and his open affairs and his almost total estrangement from his grown children, not to mention the startling frequency with which he finds excuses to dress in women's clothing." Oh, give me a break -- I don't believe that he has the most dubious known personal history of any major candidate. More dubious than Jefferson? Also, is the fact that he has worn women's clothing as a joke seriously supposed to make me think he'd be a bad president?

But of course that's just the first sentence, so maybe the rest of the paragraph will put this into perspective. The paragraph continues: "Many of his fellow Republicans despise him for his support of gay rights and abortion rights and immigrants, for the confiscatory gun laws he enforced while mayor of New York City, and for having a personality that is irreducibly New York." Then Baker quotes Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Convention and James Dobson as saying they would never vote for Giuliani. But these things by and large are all things I likeabout Giuliani. So what's going on here?

The next paragraph says that he is following in the path of Bill and Hillary Clinton, then pauses to say "New York has always been where America happens first. As the nation's most populous city, as its financial and intellectual capital, and as a magnet for ambitious and creative immigrants from all points, domestic and foreigh, it has set the course for most of the nation's history." This New York boosterism continues for a couple of paragraphs, then there's a bit about how New York's problems also presage the country's problems. Then it glosses over the fact that Hillary Clinton is from Illinois -- this is unimportant because "she nonentheless fit perfectly into the city's political landscape, in large part because she was instrumental in creating it."

After that, on its third page, the article settles down for a while. It traces Giuliani's success to his success in getting liberal upper-class white folks to vote for him by exploiting fear of crime and a feeling that the city was being taken over by non-white folks. This thesis is developed for four pages. Then there are two pages that argue that Giuliani didn't do much when he was mayor and that his popularity was on the wane until September 11, after which he still didn't do much and lied about it. Then there's a page in which it is indicated that his approach to the Presidential race is similar to his approach to the mayoral race. Then there's the concluding section, which includes the following argument:

"Just as Bill Clinton was able to silence labor, the advocates of racial and gender equality, and all of the Democrats' other so-called special interests in the wake of his party's repeated presidential defeats, so Rudolph Giuliani may be able to mute the Republicans' religious wing in the wake of George W. Bush's disastrous administration. Yet what will this mean? Many of us would welcome any setback for the Christian right [. . .] Yet to expel evangelical Christians from the body politic would also be to dismiss millions of Americans who are profoundly disturbed by the amoral cynicism that now permeates this nation's elite classes; by the waves of misogynistic pornography and ultra-violence that inundate our popular culture; by the growth industries that have grown out of gambling and hedonism. To dismiss these evangelical Christians would be to dismiss millions of Americans who genuinely believe in something greater than themselves, a whole population that has been slowly but steadily won over to such causes as environtmentalism and social justice in recent years. And where would such people go? The obvious answer would be, into some sort of coalition with all those the Democratic Party has tried to banish from its ranks -- that is, the poor and the working poor, people of color, and all those dislocated by the global economy. This would mean a party of the religious and the disinherited -- exactly the combination that has given rise to the sort of extremism we so deplore in the Islamic world."

Then there's a paragraph that says that today what's important in the president is personality, and that Bush's failure is the result of his personality, and that Giuliani would probably be about the same.

I think it would be fair to say that this is not exactly the article I'd hoped for.
jwgh: (Default)
I happened across this little quotation from the head of NASA a little while ago:
In an interview with NPR's Steve Inskeep airing May 31, 2007 on NPR News' Morning Edition, Griffin said the following: "I have no doubt that global -- that a trend of global warming exists. I am not sure that it is fair to say that it is a problem we must wrestle with. To assume that it is a problem is to assume that the state of earth's climate today is the optimal climate, the best climate that we could have or ever have had and that we need to take steps to make sure that it doesn't change.

"First of all, I don't think it's within the power of human beings to assure that the climate does not change, as millions of years of history have shown, and second of all, I guess I would ask which human beings - where and when - are to be accorded the privilege of deciding that this particular climate that we have right here today, right now is the best climate for all other human beings. I think that's a rather arrogant position for people to take."
The attitude displayed here reminds me of one I have seen elsewhere, too. For instance, a member of a university department consisting almost entirely of white men reacted to the suggestion that, among her other good qualities, a female candidate might bring some balance to the department with, "Yes, because gender is the only important thing to consider in hiring" -- the unintended implication being that you can tell which departments don't have sexist hiring practices, because they're the ones that are entirely male.

In other words, there are processes in place which have as (sometimes intentional but often unintended) unfortunate byproducts -- global warming is at least in part due to human activity, and the continued dominance of men in positions of power is because of various societal biases (not all of which are explicitly sexist). Measures to counterbalance these forces are then criticized because they explicitly are taking steps in the opposite direction -- we want to change human activity so that global warming slows down, and we want to enact policies explicitly to give women easier access to positions of power -- but the people who criticize these practices don't seem to spend much time worrying about the existing institutional problems. (Usually the people in question benefit from the existing institutional biases, of course. This may or may not be something that they explicitly consider in coming to their conclusion, though; I think a lot of people just have never noticed the institutional problems because they aren't adversely affected by them, and they seem like the natural order of things.)

So causing or reinforcing the original problem is basically OK as long as it's not intentional (or if the intention can be plausibly denied), but trying to fix it is problematic.

I don't say that various solutions to global warming, or to bias in the workplace and elsewhere, aren't problematic, or that discussions of their possible problems is bad, but it would be nice if people who oppose, say, global warming solutions because they try to change the environment would acknowledge that human activity is already changing the environment and that that, also, is a bad thing.
jwgh: (Default)
My sister reminded me of this story from when she lived in Wisconsin.

At the time, she was one of the officers in the teaching assistant's union at University of Wisconsin. The union was enough of a presence in the community that politicians would actively try to get the union's endorsement, so she told me of an evening when the union had a candidate's night, and all the local candidates showed up to try to get some support.

One such candidate made a then topical reference to a recent popular movie. "The United States -- it's like the Titanic. The Titanic was a big ship, a great ship, a powerful ship -- just a great ship."

He paused for effect, then continued. "But there are some people who want to turn that ship around!"
jwgh: (bunny ears)
I figure the recent spate of cute kitten pictures going around means that this is finally time to give [livejournal.com profile] djswifty the recognition that is rightfully his: http://djswifty.livejournal.com/139135.html
jwgh: (carsign)
Vanity Fair talks to Richard Perle, Kenneth Adelman, Michael Ledeen, Frank Gaffney, David Frum, Michael Rubin, and Eliot Cohen. Mostly they are angry and depressed.

I don't understand what point Michael Ledeen is trying to make with this:
Ask yourself who the most powerful people in the White House are. They are women who are in love with the president: Laura [Bush], Condi, Harriet Miers, and Karen Hughes.
There are also photographs of George W. Bush, Condeleezza Rice, Dick Cheney, and Donald Rumsfeld taken by Annie Liebovitz.
jwgh: (Default)
By the time they read this people will have already heard the results somewhere else, so this is a little pointless, but anyway.

I'm getting this from http://www.beloblog.com/ProJo_Blogs/politics/ .

Whitehouse (D) wins over Chaffee (R) in the Senate. Current vote count: 205,275 to 178,550.

Carcieri (R; incumbent) barely beats Fogarty (D) 197,016 to 189,099 for Governor. Wonder if there will be a recount?

The casino proposal went down, 136,406 to 231,982.

Proposal 2, restoring voting rights to felons, looks like it will pass, 181,885 to 172,758.

Looks like most of the budget questions passed, with the exception of Question 7, the Fort Adams State Park bonds (which [livejournal.com profile] katrinkles convinced me to vote for).

There were a bunch of local Providence initiatives on the ballot also. Looks like they all passed except for question 12. Unfortunately, I can't seem to find out which question that was, so I guess I will have to wait until tomorrow to find out what that means.
jwgh: (interroscarf)
I don't have any particular insights about any of these, so I would be interested in the views of others on any of these questions. The full list of referenda and explanations is available as a PDF from here.


A tentative no, even though I don't really have a problem with the Narragansetts opening a casino. It seems like the same result could be achieved without amending the constitution.


This restores the right to vote to all people who have been discharged from a correctional facility. (Previously, if they had a suspended sentence or were on parole or probation they still couldn't vote.)

I will vote yes on this. I don't have a problem with ex-cons voting. Also, it seems like whenever the criteria for who gets to vote becomes more complicated, one result is that a certain number of people who should be allowed to vote are incorrectly told they can't; it's a situation that's ripe for abuse and this amendment seems to simplify things a bit.

There are then a bunch of budgetary ones.

Question 4: HIGHER EDUCATION BONDS -- $72,790,000
($65 million for a new college of pharmacy building at URI, the rest for renovations at RIC.)
Question 5: TRANSPORTATION BONDS -- $88,500,000
(Mostly to repair bridges and roads, but also a little money for public transit stuff.)
Question 6: ROGER WILLIAMS PARK ZOO BONDS -- $11,000,000
(It seems to be somewhat vague as to what they will spend this money on. The DEM estimates the 'useful life' of the improvements to be 25-30 years.)
(Half for general improvements, half to restore the fort.)
(This is 'to provide funding assistance for local communities to develop,acquire or renovate recreation facilities.')
Question 9: AFFORDABLE HOUSING BONDS -- $50,000,000
(Mostly for the creation of affordable apartments, but $10 million is to create 'affordable home ownership opportunities.)

My inclination is to vote for all of these, but I don't know anything about them beyond what's in the booklet. Does anyone else? Update: The East Greenwich Pendulum discusses the referenda, and some more information is here.

As far as candidates go, I am basically going for a straight Democratic ticket. I do like Senator Chaffee -- he seems to think for himself a lot of the time, and I actually sent him a letter not long ago thanking him for his votes on a couple of bills -- but it just seems vital to me to, if at all possible, get rid of the Republican majority in the Senate, and I feel that by being a member of that Republican majority he is indirectly responsible for some very bad things indeed. (Also, I like Sheldon Whitehouse OK and voted for him the last time he ran for governor.)

What do you think?
jwgh: (Default)
Letters to Rhode Island's U.S. senators and representatives have been written, addressed, and stamped. (I included Patrick Kennedy for the heck of it, although he technically represents Rhode Island's other district.)


Sep. 12th, 2006 05:26 pm
jwgh: (head explode)
I just went out and voted in the primary. Here is my ballot.

For some reason, my local city council race was a little crazy.
A burglar broke into the home/office of Jose R. Brito, a Democratic candidate for City Council in Ward 11, on July 31 and stole his campaign records as well as some of his personal valuables.
although Ward 10 has been even crazier (someone tried to torch the car of the campaign manager of one of the Ward 10 candidates).

When I got to the polling place, a few guys had set up a stand pretty close to the door and they tried to give me a piece of paper that replicated a ballot that had been filled out. (It couldn't be confused with an actual official ballot, since it only listed the races that had more than one candidate, but obviously it was intended to show you how to vote.) I declined, and once I was inside I complained about this and the poll workers said they would call the cops. (So if someone douses my car with gasoline, I guess we'll know why!)

(While I was typing this, I got a call from someone asking me if I knew about the Narragansett Indians Casino Amendment and how I was planning to vote. I said, "This will be on the ballot on November?" "Right," she responded. "Well, I'm not going to tell you how I'm going to vote, but thanks for calling." "Sure, that's fine," she said, and hung up. I was kind of hoping that I would stop getting calls related to the elections after today, but I guess that's not going to happen.
jwgh: (Default)
Now is the time on Livejournal when I talk about things I know nothing about.

There's been lots of discussion of network neutrality regarding Internet access lately. I have heard a lot of rhetoric about this, most of which seems to rely on things I know not to be true, so I wanted to write down my own current thoughts on the issues. Hopefully people can correct me when I make my inevitable errors.

One point that seems obvious but which might bear repeating is that everyone with a network connection pays for it. An obvious example is that I pay my cable company every month for my ability to access the Internet, but what seems to not necessarily be understood is that any organization out there with a website is itself either directly or indirectly paying for its access also. Since I'm just me and only need enough Internet connectivity to send my email, do my web browsing, and take care of my other fairly basic needs, I don't need that much bandwidth; Cox lets me download information at a rate of up to 4-5 megabits per second. On the other hand a really big site might have multiple 155.52 Mbit/sec connections to handle all the incoming and outgoing network traffic, and they would pay a pretty penny to their own Internet service provider for that service.

Network neutrality means that when I try to access a site, or use a particular service (like instant messaging, or sending email, or using an Internet telephony service like Skype) my ISP handles my requests like any other request. That doesn't mean that I'll be able to access all websites equally quickly -- there may be network problems, or the sites may have purchased different amounts of bandwidth from their own ISPs -- but my ISP is supposed to do the best it can and not give preference to network connections to one site over another.

Why would it want to discriminate? It is pretty easy to think of some nefarious reasons for doing so -- for instance many ISPs also provide phone service and may have reason to wish that Internet telephony would die a quiet death -- but there are also more legitimate reasons.

The argument I've heard from the ISPs is that they have been giving big, popular websites like Google and Amazon a free ride. In a way that's not true -- Google and Amazon are, as I said before, paying for their Internet access just like anyone else. But there's also a grain of truth of it.

Think of spam. Ignoring for a moment the more nefarious kinds of spamming, which involve sending mail using hacked computers, spammers send mail using bandwidth they've paid for. But they also inflict additional costs on the recipient servers -- the vast majority of mail received by American On Line's mail servers is spam, for instance, and they have had to invest in additional mail servers and, quite possibly, additional bandwidth to accommodate that huge influx of spam. (Some of the antispam schemes involve trying to get the spammers to pay part or all of the money required to handle their traffic.) AOL can't get the money for this additional infrastructure from the spammers, so it has to get it from its users. Ultimately this could result in lost business for them.

There's an obvious difference between a spamhouse and Google in that users actually want Google's services whereas most would be just as happy if all spammers fell into a hole in the ground and disappeared, but in terms of the cost to the ISP on the receiving end of the data and the potential consequences thereof the analogy is still there -- Google and Amazon are paying to send their information, but it's up to the consumer (or the consumer's ISP) to pay to receive it. The ISPs see all the money that Google and Amazon are making and think, hey, they're making that money using our bandwidth! Some of that money is rightfully ours! And further they say: if we could charge sites like that extra money, that would give us incentives to make some really kickass high-bandwidth pipes to access them! That would be good for everyone!

That's more or less the case for doing away from network neutrality as I understand it.

OK. The logical question is why, then, I am opposed to getting rid of network neutrality.

It seems wrong that my ability to access Livejournal (say) would depend on some side-deal made between Cox and Six Apart. I feel like I've already paid Cox to give me access to Livejournal (among other sites obviously), and I've paid Six Apart to let me do stuff on Livejournal, and so what else should be needed, really? Perhaps this is too much of a knee-jerk reaction to be taken seriously, though.

It seems like the system would be complicated. Would a content provider have to make a separate deal with every little ISP to give its content the desired kind of priority? If not, wouldn't that result in a bandwidth cartel that is able to set prices to get premium access to its users as it liked?

There is already a problem with websites that are destroyed by their own success; you've got your cute little site that sells whatever, and people start to notice your site and think it's cool, and more and more people start to visit it until -- boom! -- you run out of bandwidth and either have to shut down or find the money somewhere to pay for more. Getting rid of network neutrality seems like it would just exacerbate that problem -- it would be another barrier to entry for small sites just starting out.

Your comments, as always, are welcomed.
jwgh: (Default)
Some of you might remember that a few weeks ago I recorded the Pete Seeger song 'Waist Deep in the Big Muddy', because it had been on my mind lately. (I heard my dad sing it a lot when I was growing up.)

For some reason it never occurred to me that other songs from that era might also be appropriated for similar reasons, but today on NPR I learned that Toby Keith has taken to singing Merle Haggard's 'The Fightin' Side Of Me', which has lyrics like "I read about some squirrely guy who claims he just don't believe in fighting, and I wonder just how long the rest of us can count on being free. They love our milk and honey, but they preach about some other way of living. When they're runnin' down my country, hoss, they're walking on the fightin' side of me." (My father's comment when I mentioned this song to him a few years back: "That song is so lame. Do you think Merle Haggard went to Vietnam? No.") [Also possibly worth noting: Merle himself has taken to writing anti-war songs these days.] Anyway, I thought it was interesting.

I guess I don't have a larger point to make here, so I'll leave you with another song that is screaming out for someone to rerecord, which is a protest song in favor of high fuel prices recorded in 1978 by the Folkel Minority.lyrics )
jwgh: (Default)
In computability theory, a machine that always halts — also called a decider (Sipser, 1996) — is any abstract machine or model of computation that, contrary to the most general Turing machines, is guaranteed to halt for any particular description and input (see halting problem).
jwgh: (arrrr)
Hey, here's a poll brought about by thinking about certain things too much!

[Poll #707665]
jwgh: (Default)
Alan Colmes interviewed Neal Horsley (an anti-abortion activist who publishes the names of doctors who perform abortions on a website, one of whom has been killed) on the radio and the discussion took a very strange turn. Here is a non-worksafe excerpt of the radio show. An attempt at a partial transcript follows. Corrections are welcomed.

the transcript )
jwgh: (arrrr)
Justice Stephen G. Breyer wondered about other illegal items. "You know, he grows heroin, cocaine, [or] tomatoes that are going to have genomes in them that could, at some point, lead to tomato children," said Breyer, spinning out what he conceded was a complicated hypothetical question. Are all these beyond the regulatory power of the federal government? he asked.
jwgh: (Default)
The first election I voted in was in 1990 in Massachusetts. (The big race that year was for governor, where it was John Silber vs. William Weld.)

Also on the ballot that year were a bunch of town offices that nobody had bothered to run for, mostly state-mandated offices that weren't relevant (for instance every town was required to have a couple of water commissioners that were responsible for the public water supply, even towns like Holland where everyone had wells and there was no public water supply).

When I came to those parts of the ballots I wrote in the names of my friends and their family members from town, and one of them actually won, apparently because nobody else bothered to write in someone for that office.
jwgh: (Default)

Everyone respond with your own ironic, cynical, jaded bumper sticker about voting! C'mon, it'll be fun! In an ironic, cynical, and jaded sort of way!

You can use the following template if you want (be sure to check off the 'Don't auto-format' button if you do, though, and use the 'Preview' option until you've got it looking just right) or something of your own devising.

<table border="1" align="center">
<tr align="center" bgcolor="#993333">
<big><b style="color: #DFF">I'M AN UNDECIDED REGISTERED VOTER</b></big>
<tr align="center" bgcolor="#FFFFFF">
<tr align="center" bgcolor="#333399">
<big><big><big><b style="color: #FFD">I MIGHT VOTE</b></big></big></big>

which gives you:


There you have it.

other examples )
jwgh: (Default)
I see that Elizabeth Dole noted yesterday that the Constitution guarantees 'freedom of religion, not freedom from religion'.

Whenever I read something like that I feel like the person is standing in front of me, pointing a finger right in my face, and saying, 'You suck, and you and everyone like you belong in jail.'

Anyway, I suppose that by parallel construction we are also guaranteed:

Freedom of speech, not freedom from speech!
Freedom of the press, not freedom from the press!
Freedom to assemble peaceably, not from assembling peaceably!
Freedom to petition the government for a redress of grievances, not from petitioning the government for a redress of grievances!
jwgh: (arrrr)
Conventional liberal wisdom four years ago:
The two eldest members, Justice Stevens, 80 and Chief Justice Rehnquist, 75, are expected to retire over the next four years. Court-watchers have predicted that Chief Justice Rehnquist will retire if George W. Bush, Jr. is elected president in November.
And in 2002 speculation continued:
For Rehnquist and O'Connor, the story is different. Both have signaled, although subtly, that they were each waiting for a Republican administration to resign. Rehnquist—who is 78—famously told Charlie Rose last year that "traditionally, Republican appointees have tended to retire during Republican administrations." Now while this comment could portend nothing more than the observation that "traditionally, Republican appointees tend to wear burgundy loafers" might have, folks in the Supreme Court tea-leaf racket have tended to interpret this as his promise to depart the court when the conditions for replacement with a like-minded conservative were best.

Justice O'Connor, who is 72, has similarly been making noises that rhyme with "retire" for some time, although the also famous election-night 2000 suggestion that she'd step down if Bush gained office was made by O'Connor's husband, John, not her. The other piece of O'Connor gossip, since the days of
Bush v. Gore, has been that she would rethink retiring if the chief justice's stripes were offered to her.
And this was supposedly written in 2003:
Chief Justice William Rehnquist and Justice Sandra O'Connor both expressed a desire to retire and be replaced by a conservative judge within the 2000 to 2004 timeframe prior to the time when they presided over the case of Bush vs. Gore.

At a party on the night of the election Justice O'Connor expressed dismay when she heard the news that Florida was initially called for Al Gore.  Her comments that night were "This is terrible!"
I figured that someone would have retired by now. It's good to be wrong about some things.

(I should note that the Slate piece I quoted above [the second quotation] ends up being very skeptical that any of the Justices would retire any time soon.)


jwgh: (Default)
Jacob Haller

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