Wednesday, December 31, 2024
By Steven Taylor

An LAT piece on Dean’s “candidness” has this gem in it:

“It seems like he’s come down with a case of ‘mad mouth’ disease,” quipped Democratic strategist James Carville. “He may be candid, but there is the glory of the unspoken thought here.”

Hat tip: Professor Bainbridge for noting the article.

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By Steven Taylor

Crime rates, slated to rise, fell in 2024

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By Steven Taylor

Chris Lawrence raises a legitimate point in regards to voting equipment which is that the differential in error rates may not justify the money needed to replace old machines, especially in poor counties which coiuld better use resources for education, law enforcement, and so forth.

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By Steven Taylor

Back to the voting issue for a minute or two (or perhaps longer…).

Yesterday I posted on General Clark’s comments to an audience in Birmingham, AL that I interpreted as race-baiting on the topic of voting (also here and here). I still consider them such.

Those posts results in a few comments that challenged my position and a lengthy e-mail exchange with Kevin Drum of CalPundit. The gist of the criticisms of my position were basically twofold: 1) a general argument that Clark was correct and that a US Civil Rights Commission Reportproves Clark was right, and 2) that the problem has to do with voting equipment and incorrectly denying voters access because they were incorrectly identified as ex-felons.

Now, the issue at hand for me is not whether or not there are problems in the voting system, there are (and, let’s face facts, there always will be), but rather the question becomes whether or not there exists widespread racism which is disenfranchising voters.

The answer is no.

Racism and/or discrimination means, to me (and I think to the English language), the purposeful mistreatment of individuals due to their skin color. While there are problems which I agree should be fixed, the issue is not racism.

The Short(ish) Version

When it comes to public policy problem is rather important to properly identify the cause of a problem before it can be solved. The comments by Clark and various comments in the post below wish to attribute these problems to blatant racism; however that is not the problem. Rather, the problem is linked to poverty.

Let’s face facts: poor people are not as well off as wealthier people. Not only will they have higher rates of error in voting, they will have poorer health, worse education, shorter life expectancies, worse living conditions, and so forth, than those wealthier than them. And, since there is a higher percentage of blacks who are in poverty than whites, they are disproportionately affected by those factors which are linked to poverty.

I would agree that slavery, and institutional racism of the past are part of the reason why more blacks live in poverty than do whites, but now we are talking about different issues than voting technology and registration problems.

I would also note that the voting technology situation does not create the tremendous divide that some people seem to think they do:

The main issue is the question of “residual votes” which are defined by the Caltech-MIT Voting Technology Project as the combination of uncounted ballots, unmarked ballots and overvoted ballots. Residual vote rates for the 1988-2000 period for presidential elections are as follows: paper (1.8%), level machine (1.5%), punch card (2.5%), optical scan (1.5%), electronic (2.3%). The rates are quite higher for Governor and Senator during this same period: paper (3.3%), level machine (7.6%), punch card (4.7%), optical scan (3.5%), electronic (5.9%). Such numbers demonstrate that differing technologies do indeed have important effects on the balloting process.

Now, I do agree that problems exist, and were I in charger, I would support the following:

  • Ex-felons, having served their debt to society, would have their voting rights restored. I have never heard an argument that would persuade me otherwise.
  • Everyone would vote with optical scan ballots, the system which has been demonstrated to be the least error prone, and one which makes recounts relatively easy.

    Now, even with such policies, there would still be people who, through their own errors or the errors of county and state official, who will show up to vote and find they are not on voting rolls.

    And, there will be higher error rates in poor counties than wealthier counties. No. Matter. What. The. Government. Does. (see above).

    I would argue that pursuing such policies by trying to deal with the actual problem is far more construction, and would actually alleviate real problems, than trying to scare black voters about being disenfranchised.

    The Longer Version

    Now, I am aware that, as the US Civil Rights Commission Report notes, that African-Americans have a higher chance of not having their votes counted, whether because of the aforementioned voting equipment or because of the ex-felon issue.

    However, the bottom line is that statistically, the poor tend to be hardest hit by everything, be it disease or be it undercounted votes. This is true whether one is black, or whether one is white. Now, it is true that there are disproportionately more blacks who are poor (in terms of relative percentages of the population) than whites.

    I point this out because issues of disenfranchisement due to the issues raises here are issues that should be dealt with via public policy

    Here’s the deal:

    First, voting machines:

    1. Older voting equipment has a higher error rate than new equipment.

    2. Older equipment tends to be used by poorer counties.

    3. African-American tend to be disproportionately in poorer county as compared to their percentage of the population.

    4. Therefore, African-Americans have a disproportionately higher chance of using older voting equipment.

    And, yes, part of the reason that African-Americans live disproportionately in poorer counties does have to do with institutional racism over the decades, including slavery. Also, living in a poorer county likely means under funded schools, lower levels of economic opportunity, and therefore a less educated population, which, in turn leads to more errors on voter registration forms, and in the usage of voting technology, no matter what machines are used.

    These are all problems, and ones that require, to some substantial degree, public policy solutions. However, that does not mean that having to use older voting equipment is the result of racism.

    Let’s ask the question this way: if a white person (such as myself when I voted in the late 1980s in Orange County, CA, an affluent county, btw), uses a punch-card, is that racism?

    I would argue not.

    Now, if it isn’t racism when a white person uses a punch-card ballot, chads and all, why is it racism (and disenfranchisement) when a black person uses it?

    Second, roles of ex-felons:

    1. There is clearly a problem with the rolls. I am amazed that given computer databases that these rolls cannot be properly maintained, but I agree that there is a problem,.

    2. There are a disproportionate number of felons who are black v. whites when compared to the overall populations.

    3. As a results, errors in ex-felon rolls will disproportionately affect blacks.

    This does not mean that institutional racism is in place to deny blacks the right to vote. One can argue that the criminal justice system is skewed against blacks, but even if that is the case, the problem wouldn’t be the voting system, it would be the criminal justice system. It is also quite possible that black young men disproportionately commit crimes, which contributes to the problem as well.

    The bottom line is, however, that the issues at hand regarding voting machines and disenfranchised felons, while one can argue they can link back to the history of race relations in this county are not, in and of themselves, race issues. Simply: the problems identified are not problems which can be demonstrated to be ones caused by a racist voting system, which was what Clark stated, and what the comments supported.

    If you want to solve the problem, figure out what it is first.

    I see problems with education, personal responsibility and crime and not a systematic attempt to deny anyone the right to vote. This is especially true because the problems of voting machines, disenfranchised ex-felons and even general registration issues, apply to poor whites as well as to poor blacks.

    And since this is so danged long, it is part of today’s BELTWAY TRAFFIC JAM

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  • By Steven Taylor

    The discussion yesterday concerning what I consider race-baiting by General Clark has inspried a number of comments and some e-mails. I have a rather lengthy post on the subject that I am working on, but have a simple point that I don’t want swallowed up by an essay:

    As long as a substantial number of persons, especially leaders (such as Clark), wish to ascribe racism to everything bad the happens to a group of African-Americans, we are going to have a hard time moving towards a society in which people are not “judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

    Just because an injustice happens to balck people, doesn’t mean it is the result of racism. I am not saying that there is no racism in American. However, mis-diagnosis of a policy problem leads to the wrong policy prescriptions.

    I agree that probems exist that have caused some black americans (and white ones, too, for that matter) to have their votes not counted, or to have been stopped from voting due to registration problems. However, if an American American gentleman living in a poor county mis-votes, is it because he is black, or is it because the county couldn’t afford more accurate equipment, or maybe it was because as a poor citizen in a poor county he received a sub-standard education?

    The real reasons that something happens matters if one really wants to apply appropriate pubic policy solutions.

    Let me ask the question this way: if a white person is denied the right to vote because of being incorrectly placed on a list of ex-felons who have been legally disenfranchised, is that racism? If a white person lives in a poor county and has to vote with less than the latest tehnology, is that racism? I would argue, no–would you? If a black person is similarly situated, what makes it racism?

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    By Steven Taylor

    Dean has dubbed the Bush administration “the most dangerous administration in my lifetime.”

    First, by what standard?

    Second, Dean was alive during the Nixon administration, was he not? In terms of serious damage to the Republic, I think Tricky Dick was the most “dangerous” administration in some time, although I have a hard time describing any US president as “dangerous”.

    And this is somewhat ironic, given the facts on the ground, not to mention the criticisms from conservatives:

    From Iraq to homeland security to public health, President Bush’s “reckless” habit of placing “ideology over facts” has resulted in “the most dangerous administration in my lifetime,” Democrat Howard Dean charged over the past two days.

    Honestly, that is pretty hard to argue on any number of issues, including trade and health care policy, to name two. Not to mention the fact that if the President was blinded by ideology in his foreign policy, why haven’t we invaded Iran and North Korea (or Syria, for that matter)?

    And you have to love this logic:

    “If we are safer, how come we lost 10 more troops and raised the safety alert” to the orange level, Dean said Sunday night in Ankeny, Iowa.

    “All the other Democrats pounced on me and beat me up and said how ignorant I was about foreign affairs,” he said. “I think most people in America agree with me today and it’s only two weeks later.”

    Dean may have a stoic demeanor, but he clearly ain’t from the planet Vulcan.

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    By Steven Taylor

    How can this be? Halliburton to Lose Iraq Oil Project

    Just weeks after Pentagon auditors said Halliburton may have overcharged taxpayers to import oil to Iraq, the Defense Department is removing the Army Corps of Engineers from its role in supervising the program.

    The Defense Energy Support Center, which buys fuel for the military throughout the world, will supervise the shipments and choose new contractors to replace Halliburton, Vice President Dick Cheney’s former company.

    Gee whiz, since we went to war for Halliburton, what is going on up there in Washington? Does Cheney know about this?!?

    My worldview is crumbling!

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    Tuesday, December 30, 2024
    By Steven Taylor

    Remember how I griped that Texas didn’t get to play in a BCS Bowl, and how they got hosed playing in a secod tier Bowl?

    Never mind.

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    By Steven Taylor

    Eyes on the road — not on the screen.

    If you are considering installing a video screen on your dashboard to watch your favorite morning show or catch a flick to break up the monotony of your commute, think again.

    Beginning Thursday, a new state law will tighten restrictions on drivers who watch video and television screens while operating their vehicles.

    With the explosion of high-tech gadgets and gizmos for vehicles, California lawmakers have overhauled an existing law to attempt to limit at least some distractions for drivers.

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    By Steven Taylor

    Nude Barbie Photos Are Free Speech.

    All I can say is: “only in America”:

    A federal appeals court has upheld a Utah artist’s right to make nude photos of Barbie dolls being menaced by kitchen appliances.

    Noting the image of Barbie dolls is “ripe for social comment,” a three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals on Monday rejected toymaker Mattel Inc.’s appeal of a lower court ruling in favor of lampooning the popular doll.


    The artist had argued that the photo series, which also included a photo of Barbie dolls wrapped in tortillas and covered in salsa in a casserole dish in a lit oven, was meant to critique the “objectification of women” and “beauty myth” associated with the popular doll.

    Forget the ruling: who stands around thinking: “hmm, you know what would be cool…?”

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