Distributed Mind

September 28, 2004

Official: Pollsters Skip Mobile Phones

by ben

I first heard about this around a week ago, but could not confirm it, and in fact it suspected it was wrong, but it turns out that Gallup, for one, is not calling mobile phones for their polls, according to an article at Wired. Zogby started talking about this a while back; I thought it was market hype for his company, since I figured random dialing (which at least used to be common, to the best of my knowledge) would catch mobile phones with no problem. But Steve Hanway of Gallup confirms in the article that they are not calling those phones, based on anticipated antipathy from mobile phone users.

While this is sort of big news, the article claims that only 3% of persons in the country are using only mobile phones. If that number is right, it should have fairly little impact on the polls. I don't know the precise impact it will have; it will mostly be an issue for how confident one can be about the poll results. But 3% is not going to make a big dent in that. The article does mention that this 3% is not random, it is skewed toward a younger demographic, but, still, at only 3% (and as they again point out, among a group with lower voter turnout), it won't have a huge impact. I would be interested in seeing some numbers, or maybe if I suddenly invent some free time modeling it myself (which seems ridiculously optimistic regarding my statistical abilities).

It will be an increasing problem, though. But, I think for now it need not be a great concern, and I don't think any of need worry any more than usual about the numbers coming out of the current polls.

17:12:33 - Politics - ben - No comments

September 25, 2004

So That 2002 Won't Be Like 1942

by ben

Via The Memory Blog, Alternet has a good article about the arrests made in the post-WTC attack sweeps. Evidently none of those persons were ever convicted of anything, save one, whose conviction has been overturned. I remember that incident being one of the scariest things I had ever seen in the United States: people rounded up en masse, no charges released to the press, held incommunicado, if I recall correctly. Of course, I have seen things almost as scary since, but that was the beginning.

15:52:40 - Politics - ben - No comments

September 24, 2004

Interview with Libertarian Presidential Candidate

by ben

Slashdot did an interview with Michael Badnarik, the LP's presidential candidate a few days ago. Although I would still never vote for him, he does say some interesting things, and a few that strike me as sub-evil, despite my intense dislike for the libertarian ideals (well, I do have some sympathy, but in large part I try to avoid admitting it lest it give any ground to them). For example, he appears pro-immigration. That blew me away, and I dare say I wish most liberals were willing to be that reckless (and reckless it probably is - but then maybe most freedoms are). And, hey, he is a third party candidate, so he gets points there.

02:21:08 - Politics - ben - No comments

September 22, 2004

A Political Gender Revolution

by ben

This has been mentioned enough other places (e.g. NY Times via, ugh, Instapundit.com), but I think it is still not getting nearly the attention it should be. Women, who were considered to be a Democratic stronghold, now favor Bush. That is, I think, major. It shows that (1) you should never take your constituencies for granted, (2) either that it may sometimes be hard to decide for which resons you have supprt or that politics is sufficiently complex that predicting the future is more difficult than many assume (who would have thought? I guess we never learm, even me).

The question is, where do we all go from here? My strategy for splitting the vote in 2008 may be taking a hit with this one. Fortunately, whatever happens, the probability of having to go up against tough-guy George W. Bush in 2008 is very remote. But, if it is true that it is national security issues causing this new trend, that still does not address the real base issue. How do we convince people that a independent, non-traditional split with progressive leanings really is the safest? And, before we even get there, how do we insure that it is? (In some ways, it clearly already is, but that is a long term trend, not necessarily a short term trend. Furthermore convincing people that restraint is necessary almost never works as well as running around frantically blowing stuff up. Oh, well.)

17:04:04 - Politics - ben - 2 comments

September 20, 2004

The First Up Against the Wall When the Revolution Comes

by ben

Reminded by discussing the Medicare bill, I pulled out the list, as best as I can remember it. These industries better hope I never become supreme dictator.

  1. The Pharmaceutical Industry

    The worst exploiters of some of the most vulnerable, for all their good they do a lot of harm too, and even their good seems done with a close eye on profits. Ask the Africans with AIDS, or seniors, or any of another number of countless people being gouged. Part of the problem is the drug regulations, but the Industry is the most directly culpable. If (if?) I was a communist, this would be a good candidate not for better regulation, but for nationalization.

  2. Oil

    These guys have so much to answer for it isn't even funny. Environmental damage direct and indirect, sabotaging alternative energy, putting profits before our national safety, these guys won't get regulated, broken up, or even nationalized. I hope to throw large, heavy fuel cells at their heads someday.

  3. Media Conglomerates (and especially Recording and Movie)

    Thank you for owning everything I have ever read, seen, or heard - or in effect vast portions of my memory. Thank you for putting the entire executive and legislative branch at your beck and call, despite your economic insignificance. Thank you for holding a gun to the head of everyone in the technology sector. Thank you for attempting to control all technology via extremist Digital Rights Management approaches. Thank you for making my world that much more miserable of a place. And your news coverage was terrible.

  4. The Big Three Auto Makers

    These guys qualify almost more as merely obnoxious, but they have a lot to answer for too. Aggressively marketing (usually) unnecessary and destructive SUVS, insisting on bad emission standards and sabotaging legislation to improve them, stonewalling on new energy technologies, and backing big oil, and I am sure somewhere they probably shot down some attempts at public transportation, not to mention the traditional problems with safety and so on. Oh, and did I mention the part where they try to prevent consumers from buying better made, more efficient imports? Bye guys, wish I could say I will miss you, but no. I do like cars, but I look forward to a future with less of them, and none of them made by you.

  5. Steel

    Steel is probably just obnoxious, but they are obnoxious. Stop raising consumer prices, and upgrade already. And please stop trashing our water. Maybe, maybe I will take you off the list.

  6. Somebody else, or maybe several, I forgot

I dare say we will dance on their graves. Viva la revolution.

15:12:40 - Politics - ben - 3 comments

I Have Finally Figured Out My Political Classification

by ben

I Have Finally Figured Out My Political Classification: Anti-Libertarian

13:47:38 - Politics - ben - No comments

September 17, 2004

An Alternative Question For Those Allergic to Hitler Questions

by ben

Napoleon I vs. George III. In an American election. Which one?

20:41:26 - Politics - ben - No comments

Gotta Love Hypothetical Questions Involving Hitler...

by ben

Let's say biotechnology advances far byeond where it is today, and in the extremist future that we all know is coming, the Republicans resurrect Hitler and the Democrats resurrect Stalin, and they both nominate them, respectively, as their candidates. Which would you vote for?

20:38:27 - Politics - ben - No comments

For Non-Party Line Liberals, Bush Does Have Some Appeal

by ben

Is my title controversial enough? If Bush were to get to win, and if two [liberal] Supreme Court justices were to retire within the next term, word on the street is that we could be looking at an overturn of Roe v. Wade and its ridiculous assertion that the right to privacy somehow grants a right to abortion. Ah, I love our judicial system. The point being that even as a "liberal" I still am evidently conservative enough to like the way conservative justices handle things. In short the liberal justices look like cracked pots sometimes. Judicial activism is real, unfortunately, and although it has occasionally brought some good, more often it has allowed the courts to do whatever they feel is best - regardless of the opionions of a majority of elected officials and voters - and worse, with seemingly precious little respect for the law they are supposed to uphold. Oh, well.

The situation is even touchier though at the Supreme Court level. Abortion is the biggest issue in danger evidently. Whether Bush or Kerry would really have an impact is uncertain, but it is definitely a possibility. This is also probably one of the main reason a lot of people I know are voting for Bush. So, as I often mention, once again I have to choose between the environment, ill-conceived wars, civil rights erosion, support for corrupt megacorps, usw. and abortion. At the risk of sounding like a utilitarian, the number 300,000 once again comes to mind. Bush would have to start a war with China to beat that. (Or maybe just let drug companies continue to be drug companies; they do manage to let a lot of poor people die after all, evidently. I suppose we could argue about that point.)

Not enough to make me vote for Bush, but food for thought anyway. For some peculiar reason, I have started to have this dream where on election day my hand moves past all the candidates for president to that little line and starts writing something. If I figure out what it is I am writing, I will let you know.

[Though in all fairness, one should not assume the Supreme Court is the end of the world; a Constitutional amendment is not beyond reason, and would be less controversial in the long run. It could take much longer though, and the road there would be much bloodier.]

By the way, even conservatives don't necessarily buy this sort of argument for Bush though. E.g. this article at National Review Online which argues Bush wouldn't be able to make a difference - though the author does say Kerry would, in a way he finds unpalatable.

02:32:17 - Politics - ben - No comments

September 16, 2004

A Different Take On Bush's Religiosity

by ben

The Washington Post has a fairly random article about the supposed non-specificity of Bush's religion. It suggests Bush actually hasn't revealed a lot of his beliefs despite being the most openly religious president. I think they for the most part miss the mark. The things they pick are actually comparatively small issues, at least in my opinion, and they try to make Bush less certain that he comes across. They say Bush has not said he thinks homosexuality is sinful, but I would dare say I would not feel in too much danger of losing money on a bet about that. Furthermore, I probably would not make public declarations - know, I know I wouldn't - about most of these issues, especially if I was a public figure. Finally, they miss how much a lot of Bush's silence is actually fairly transparent evasion - take for example their mention of Bush's apology to the ADL, which basically just said that his personal views were personal, not his views as governor, which in no way muddied the issue.

Anyway, I am not sure what the point is, and I think they are trying to make an issue out of a non-issue, but I wanted to mention it since it provides a somwhat different look at Bush's faith than the Frontline documentary I had mentioned previously.

18:37:07 - Politics - ben - No comments

September 15, 2004

The First Amendment in Our Age

by ben

Even before the end of the Cold War, American journalists and politicians were looking for the next big thing, and "rogue states" were it (remember they were talking about rogue states back when we were first in Iraq - before the collapse of the USSR). Somehow the Middle East and terrorism got mixed up in the whole thing too, though I am not sure of the exact chronology. A certain event three years ago changed the emphasis from rogue states to terrorism, though our president got a few shots in at the aforementioned rogue states as well (and in the case of one of those states, the shots were not merely verbal). So now we have not the Cold War but the "War on Terrorism." And, like the Civil War and World War II and the Cold War, this war necessitates, according to some, the suspension of certain constitutional rights. In this case, freedom of religion seems to be taking quite a hit.

I have seen and heard more and more, or at least it has seemed to me, remarks from conservatives - of all people - in reference to Islam and how the government should respond to it. Now, references to Islam on the international scene, while it might be questionable, I suppose it might be harder to argue is unconstitutional. Though technically the language of the First Amendment could, I suppose, be interpreted such that our government cannot discriminate against religions outside of the United States, I doubt anyone would dare argue that, and I doubt enough people would care in the first place. But, on the domestic scene that is another issue. Most of what I have read was just in poor taste and a little bigotted (though if I wanted to give the benefit of the doubt, I suppose I could concede they may have a point, but I don't think we could say right now that they do for certain), but when I read something like this column by one Tamara Wilhite, even I know for certain we have crossed a legal line:

Anyone who registers as Muslim should be required to take a loyalty oath. The U.S. or Islam. ... Anyone who chooses the U.S. shall be registered with the government. If they continue to show loyalty to this nation, they may stay. ... Anyone who chooses Islam is to be considered a threat to this country and put in confinement. ...

(She adds in rather poor taste "Old Japanese interment camps work." If I were anyone less verbose, I am certain I would be left speechless.)

I only wish this article were satirical, but, alas, it does not appear to be, but that is another issue. I was supposedly talking about the First Amendment. It should be immediately obvious that everything Ms. Wilhite is arguing flies in the face of the Constitution. Even if you think she is right about Islam, even if you think her measures are prudent if Draconian, which I don't, there is no doubt she faces some severe legal obstacles to their adoption, as will anyone who wants to single out Islam as asecurity risk. Now, Ms. Wilhite does argue that Islam is unique among religions, and specifically absolves Hinduism, Jainism, Christianity, Buddhism, and Sikhism, but her tolerance toward religion is not the point. Constitutionally, she can't do that. As a conservative, I didn't think she was supposed to want to, which is what "surprises" me more. I am not really surprised because I know that the religion clause has frequently stood in for freedom not of religion but for freedom of Christianity. Don't expect me to say I am bothered by that fact, but it is a fact. Although I tend to think freedom of religion, secularism (definition 1, not 2), separation of church and state - whatever you choose to call the concept - is a good idea, as long as they don't go around killing people, I can't really feel that bad about an officially Christian state. That is my bias, and I will choose to keep it. However, political conservatives in this country have chosen to stand behind the American Constitution and our founding ideals, and they say absolutely no establishment of religion of phrohibiton of the free exercise thereof by Congress. No exception for Islam. This particular brand of conservative must make a choice; will they choose to give Islam special status and throw out the First Amendment and the American conception of secularism, or will they put up and shut up and find ways to oppose violent extremism without resorting to religious persecution?

Update: Okay, so rereading Ms. Wilhite's comments I can see that she could perhaps claim they are not unconstitutional - because after all she is not prohibitng the practice of Islam, but simply requiring they swear loyalty to the United States before their religion, and after all, that just means they will follow the laws, so no problem there, right? Specious, I don't think the courts would like it, but who knows. I doubt you could get many Christians to swear it though. I know I wouldn't. So in substance it still looks like prohibition of free exercise to me. Anyone who thinks that the free exercise of Christianity is safe only when the practice of all other religions are safe should be worried by this sort of thing. (If you really truly believe that Islam is some sort of insane suicide cult, you could have a leg to stand on perhaps - at least outside the United States. That would be an uphill argument considering the 1300 year history of Islam and the hundreds of millions of believers, a small handful of whom have chosen to blow themselves up. And if instead you are more worried about the fact that Muslims in some countries go around killing people of other religions who don't agree with them - well, religious wars elsewhere have never been an argument for over-reaction here. Besides, that might be to forget several centuries of Christianity's histroy. After all, "crusade" is still an obscenity in some parts of the world.)

02:32:09 - Politics - ben - No comments

September 05, 2004

Speaking of Matthew White: His Take on Presidents

by ben
[Remainder of article]
17:21:59 - Politics - ben - No comments

Death in Context

by ben

This may be the most shocking thing I have written here yet. Warning: This is macabre and cold.

[Remainder of article]
17:07:16 - Politics - ben - 1 comment

September 04, 2004

Some More Thoughts on Fighting Terrorism

by ben

I think this point is more disputable, but probably some thought needs put into this, and I don't mean by the US government, I mean by the voters who think that the "war on terror" is such an important topic. Who are the terrorists? How do we define them? (Hint: Saddam Hussein is not a terrorist - though he did evidently support terrorists, though Osama bin Laden is a terrorist.) How do we identify them, and what do we do with them after we find them? Think hard before you answer. Make sure the people you think are terrorists really are (especially if they are Americans, since you have to worry about due process - or at least in theory you do). And, remember, being of any particular ethnicity or even religious belief is not enough. Being an Arab Muslim is not enough, even being a radical Arab Muslim is not enough - they have to be advocating or attempting violence. If you disagree with that point, then, I would like to point out, you are running against the spirit of the Constitution. And, simply claiming it doesn't apply to non-citizens - which it doesn't - will only get you past disagreeing with the so-called "letter of the law," not the spirit.

Also, just because terrorists are mean, evil creatures, doesn't remove repsonsibility from our leaders when they goad them into action. Anybody dumb enough to kick a rattlesnake - all moral authority aside, since rattlesnakes don't care - after they have already heard that it is there, deserves what they get. Unfortunately, in this case, they do the kicking and we get the biting. They must be held accountable for their actions. I don't want to discourage our government from helping people outside of our country - I am the first to say we should, but let's make sure that is really what we are about, and we aren't just in it to let off some steam. The pain we will suffer as a result is not worth that.

02:35:34 - Politics - ben - No comments

Understanding the War on Terror

by ben

Between the Republican speeches full of references to the "War on Terror" and events in Russia, I wanted to say a few words on combating terrorism.

Terrorism can't lose. Terrorists have nothing to lose and everything to gain. Like the Indians fighting the British troops, or the Viet Cong fighting the American troops, once they have us on their ground - we don't have a chance. And, right now, we are doing just that with terrorists.

I have said since, oh, at the latest when we invaded Afghanistan, that Osama bin Laden wanted a war. By giving one, we played into his hands. I doubt even he could have predicted our next step. We not only played into their hands, we took it a step farther.

"The War on Terror" is a war we can't win - at least not the way we are doing it now. The real war is not on the ground in Iraq, but in the hearts and minds of people - especially Muslims - all over the world. And the way we are going right now, we are losing on that ground.

We need to take the battle to our high ground. Right now we aren't doing that. And as long as we continue to fight on the terrain they know best - we will continue to lose, until we have to give up. Let's take a lesson from General Braddock's experience.

00:13:12 - Politics - ben - No comments