7/31/2007

how much evidence is enough

(P) One of the fundamental issues I am most passionate about deals with the process of voting. Now, it's not particularly exciting in and of itself; in fact, it's rather mundane and boring, when all goes well. But when all does not go well, it throws off the whole system. It's impossible to have representative government when the official tallies don't represent the will of the people. In fact, it's more sinister than that. It's impossible to have representative government when there is the impression that the official results are illegitimate, even if they do accurately reflect the results of an election.

There are a number of ways over the years that American democracy has been susceptable to manipulation, with perhaps the most famous cases being political bosses, or machines, in major cities, whose tactics were basically to persuade lots of people to vote a certain way through less than fair means. What's interesting about the voting issues of the past few years compared to prior periods is that the defining characteristic is no longer trying to manipulate people into voting. Rather, it's about trying to prevent certain groups of people from voting, or, if you can't stop them, prevent their votes from being counted accurately. It's also worth noting that men from New York to KC ended up being convicted and incarcerated for various crimes. Election fraud is a serious issue, and there is much precedent in our history for prosecuting it aggressively. Just like Al Capone, a common tactic was going after tax evasion if the evidence couldn't be collected for a conviction related to illegal election activity.

Now, none of the above will strike anybody as particularly controversial, as it's safely in the past and primarily dealt with urban Democratic bosses. It gets really interesting, however, when we raise questions about current GOP operatives. All of a sudden, it's treasonous, insane conspiracy theorizing to pose questions when something smells fishy (my favorite line from back in November of 2004 from the mainstream media is courtesy of the Washington Post: "spreadsheet-wielding conspiracy theorists"). We all know how irrational accountants, engineers, and statisticians tend to be.

There are lots of places to read about specific problems in Florida, Ohio, New Mexico, Nevada, and elsewhere. The unfolding story about White House political involvement in US Attorney selection certainly will shed additional light on GOP voter suppression tactics. Some people have already been convicted and/or forced to resign their positions in the following years. What's perhaps most suspicious, though, prompted this particular post.

Under state law and a specific court order, Ohio election officials were required to secure results from the 2004 election for further study. Guess what? The documents have been destroyed or are missing from over half the counties in Ohio.

Nothing to see here folks, move along.

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7/19/2007

14k

I had to write about this milestone. It is an excellent time to remind that for long-term investing, a critical component should include equity markets.


However, it is worth noting that the vast majority of these gains go to the richest people. The top ten percent control over 3/4 of the stock market. In contrast, the poorest half of the country control less than 2 percent.

If those kinds of numbers don't move ya, well, I guess you're just not moved by numbers.

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7/15/2007

a new reason to go to Stanford

I grew up playing ultimate frisbee. It was a regular part of my life by junior high. We would play every Sunday afternoon, year round, and sometimes in the evenings over the summer. Good times!

Well ESPN decided to do a little exploration of less well known sports, and they decided to profile the Stanford women's team. If you didn't know, they're kind of dominant.

This quote is particularly awesome:
"Dantzker, who joined the team as a sophomore, said she improved as a player each season. More significantly, she said that with each game her love of the sport grew. She admits that part of the reason she decided to pursue a graduate degree at Stanford was to continue playing for Superfly."

GSB, here I come.

They say about 100,000 Americans play in total. I find that hard to believe, though. Even ten years ago there were a lot of leagues and it definitely felt like a lot more involvement than .033% of the population, and I'm sure more play now than when I got started. I wonder if that's only people who participate directly in leagues through the UPA.

We were a tad more casual. In fact, it was kind of funny when people would try to organize our efforts and get us to run specific plays (out of the stack) and so forth. We mostly just wanted to have fun running around throwing the frisbee, which I would argue is still very much in the spirit of the sport, combining competitive traits with self-regulatory ones (there are no refs in ultimate). Plus, teamwork is the most important thing. It's really fun when you know people so well that you can make something look chaotic to the other team but you are instinctively aware of what your teammates are up to.

Ah, that's been a while...

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7/04/2007

back on the table

(P) I was a little surprised the Administration, historically stingy with its pardoning powers, commuted the sentence of convicted Vice Presidential aide Libby. They had been handed a Congress with little interest in directly challenging the core criminality of their time in office. One of Speaker of the House Pelosi's most famous phrases was about impeachment being off the table.

But now, amidst a number of interrelated and growing scandals, Bush committed an act clearly linking himself to the heart of the problem, the lack of accountability and transparency, the utter disdain for the Constitution and the rule of law.

He went all in, and I think even members of Congress will become increasingly persuaded by the public to call the President's bluff. One of the great checks of our system is that people consumed by power tend to overreach. While certainly enough impeachable acts have already been committed, keeping Libby out of jail has a beautifully simplistic nature to it. It's very easy to understand and quite difficult to obfuscate. We either have an executive branch bound by the rule of law, or we have a dictator beyond it. Even comfortable DC Democrats won't be able to ignore the increasing pressure that is building on the system.

As we celebrate the Declaration of Independence, maybe it's appropriate that our leaders have given us a gift of such clarity and meaning.

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