Tuesday, November 28, 2006

This is interesting.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Two things to keep in mind about the midterm elections:

- It wasn't just a win for the Democrats, it was a landslide. According to Wikipedia, the Democratic party captured 57.7% of the House vote. By contrast, no presidential candidate in the last 20 years managed to achieve this.

- As a consequence of gerrymanding, the actual results of the election are heavily skewed towards Republicans. Democrats have so far won 53.3% of the seats in the House, with a small number of seats still undecided. Compare that with 57.7%, and you have about a 4% edge for Republicans built into the system. Even the supposedly most democratic element of the American system of government - direct election to the House of Representatives - is not very democratic at all.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Because I believe that military actions aimed at military targets are justified in a war, even if they cause significant civilian casualties, I find little occasion to criticize Israeli policy re Lebanon or the Palestinians. Nevertheless, a few days ago the Times ran a piece on movement restrictions in the West Bank which describes actions on Israel's part which I think are counterproductive and unjust.
In one of the more sweeping restrictions, men under 35 from the northern West Bank are generally not allowed to leave the area. The rules often change, but this one has been enforced most days for the last four months, Palestinians say.
I don't think road blocks are unjustified, despite the inconvenience they cause to all those who wait in line, due to the lives they save. I can't oppose emergency lockdowns - when no one is allowed to pass through a road block - in response to reliable information that a terrorist attack will take place in the area soon. But a permanent lockdown for all men under 35 is going too far. It may be acceptable as an emergency response, but made quasi-permanent its a violation of human rights.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Who is the most liberal republican senator? It depends on how one defines ``liberal.'' You are probably thinking of Olympia Snow or Lincoln Chafee, but measured relative to the average political persuasion in each state, the answer is Orrin Hatch - see the chart here.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

One story not getting much attention in the wake of the election results is the approval of Proposition 2 in Michigan (58%-42%), which bans affirmative action from public universities and agencies. University of Michigan and various interest groups have stated they will sue. I know nothing about the law, but given that challenges to the same ballot measure in California have failed, it seems unlikely that these efforts will be succesful.

I wonder if the backers of Proposition 2 will put up similar measures in more states in 2008. California and Michigan are arguably left of center, so that if an anti-affirmative-action measure can pass there, it can probably pass in most other states.

The full list of ballot measures in this election makes for interesting reading. A South Dakota measure allowing people with "debilitating conditions" to grow "not more than six plants" of marijuana narrowly failed 48%-52% (although I think it would have been purely symbolic as growing marijuana would have still been illegal under federal drug laws). Still, if medical marijuana measures have the support of 48% of the voters in South Dakota, I'm guessing that they have larger support nationwide. In other news, a silly Arizona measure to award $1 million to a random voter faced a resounding defeat 66%-34%.

Friday, November 03, 2006

This from the NYT review of the Borat movie:
That Mr. Baron Cohen plays the character’s anti-Semitism for laughs is his most radical gambit. The Anti-Defamation League, for one, has chided him, warning that some people may not be in on the joke. And a sampling of comments on blogs where you can watch some of the older Borat routines, including a singalong in an Arizona bar with the refrain “Throw the Jew down the well,” indicates that the Anti-Defamation League is at least partly right: some people are definitely not in on the joke, though only because some people are too stupid and too racist to understand that the joke is on them. As the 19th-century German thinker August Bebel observed, anti-Semitism is the socialism of fools, a truism Mr. Baron Cohen has embraced with a vengeance.
Huh? That last pseudointellectual reference makes no sense to me. Bebel's point was that the capitalist system is inherently opressive, and that people's anger at those who are successful in the system (i.e. jews) ought to be redirected towards the system itself. I really don't see how the Sasha Baron Cohen embraced Bebel's truism.