Thursday, June 26, 2008

News Digest

Gosh, today was a busy day. Lots of stuff happening in the world. Enough, in fact, that it's worth an actual blog post (*gasp*) rather than just Reader notes to run down them.

Supreme Court decisions - 3 of them today, two of note. First, the "millionaire's amendment" to campaign finance got struck down, so the limit for campaign contributions doesn't increase against self-funders. Campaign finance law will continue to be a mess; film at 11. Also, the DC gun law was struck down, in what was generally a good decision in my opinion. I think it's pretty clear that the federal government can't make such a law prohibiting handgun ownership based on historical precedent and common-sense reading of the 2nd amendment.

ICANN releases domain names - We will now have virtually any string be a potential FQDN (fully qualified domain name), which will wreak havoc on many things. There are two parts; the first is allowing non-ASCII characters, which should be fine, except for standard i18n concerns; the second is allowing anybody who will pay $50-100k to get a TLD, which might be any arbitrary string (excluding trademarks), so http://mail./ might be a valid domain. (The ending . is to prevent browsers from, naturally, doing all sorts of things with the string that would make sense, and ensuring they treat it as a FQDN)

Microsoft to buy Powerset? - At $100 million (or even more) for what is essentially vaporware that can search Wikipedia only moderately worse than Microsoft's existing search engine, I think it's fair to say that Microsoft is trying to make Yahoo! jealous by buying a bunch of other search engine companies.

Oil at $140 - No link, but it seems to be going up and up ... at some point, both supply and demand will become inelastic, and substitutes will increase; but there's no saying where that point will be.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Fear and Loathing on Daily Kos

The backwaters of the Daily Kos diaries can tend to have content that is somewhere very near Youtube comments in the level of sanity and balance involved (at least the spelling is better at Kos). Most of the time, these comments and the resident troll population are easily ignored. However, occasionally they invoke enough "false outrage" which gets plenty of attention, and it cannot be ignored.

Breaking: Des Moines floods, Evacuation: Where is Anderson Cooper?. The lack of facts, misfacts, and truly pathetic attempts at political grandstanding in this article are incredible. With regards to the Iowa flooding, there are a few facts that first need to be considered:

  1. No amount of levees and other flood protections could have prevented there being catastrophic flood damage in Cedar Rapids. It is completely impossible to design a city around a river and to expect to be able to hold back the amount involved.
  2. The flooding is not nearly as bad in Des Moines as in Cedar Rapids. In many areas, the floods only are covering a few neighborhoods. In Cedar Rapids, it is at least 400 city blocks in downtown.
  3. This is not Katrina. While parts of the devastation may be that bad, it is important to keep in mind that everybody was within at most 5 miles of complete safety. With Katrina, there was at least a 50 mile swath hit by a hurricane, and the corresponding winds. Also, Cedar Rapids is not nearly as densely populated as New Orleans, and it is not under sea level.
  4. There is nothing that having more resources on the ground could have done to mitigate the damage. There seemed to be almost as many "We have too many volunteers, please do not go to this area" announcements on the news as "We need volunteers at this area". The national guard, FEMA, etc. could not have done anything more.
  5. There is no major risk to human life. As mentioned above, there was no hurricane associated with this storm. Virtually everybody in danger was evacuated before floods hit.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Presidential Race Projection: June 9 Edition

I'm going to use a few more categories than the standard "Solid/Lean/Tossup" breakdown. I'm adding "lock" for a drop-dead 100% sure bet, and "likely" in between solid and lean. (Note: Nebraska divides its electoral votes by CD, with 2 going to the state winner)

Obama Lock - DC (3), HI (4), IL (21), MD (10), MA (12), NY (31), RI (4), VT (3) - 88EV
McCain Lock - ID (4), NE-3rd (1), TN (11), OK (7), UT (5), WY (3) - 31EV

Obama Solid - CA (55), CT (7), DE (3), ME (4), MN (10), WA (11), WI (10) - 100EV, cum. 188EV
McCain Solid - AL (9), LA (9), NE-AL (2), KS (6), KY (6), SD (3), WV (5) - 42EV, cum. 73EV

Obama Lean - CO (9), MI (17), NJ (15), NH (4), OR (7), PA (21) - 73EV, cum. 251EV
McCain Lean - AK (3), AR (6), AZ (10), GA (15), FL (27), IN (11), MS (6), MT (3), ND (3), NE-1st (1), NE-2nd (1), SC (8), TX (34) - 128EV, cum. 201EV

Tossup - IA (7), OH (20), MO (11), NC (15), NV (5), NM (5), VA (13) - 76 EV

What's obvious here is that Obama is in a lot better shape than McCain. "Serious" people have suggested that he may win any of the states in the "McCain lean" column, including Texas, Alaska, North Dakota, and Mississippi, none of which would generally be considered "Swing states", but certainly should be considered as such this election. McCain certainly has a shot at the Obama lean states, but there are a lot fewer in that category. Most are at least "Solid", which means it would take significant effort, luck, and national swing for McCain to win them.

As far as strategy suggested by this setup, we have the following:
1) If Obama wins Texas or Florida, he definitely wins. The punditry generally look at Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania as "key battleground" states, with Florida generally included as well. However, even if Obama lost 2 of MI OH PA, Texas or Florida would likely ensure he had enough EV to win.

2) McCain needs a base. The general Republican bases are in the west and the south. In the south, evangelical dislike of McCain plus an expected huge black turnout makes a lot of states possibly competitive. In the west, Obama has very strong popularity, and the Democratic party overall is on the rise. McCain has no shot unless he can establish early (before the conventions) that either Georgia, South Carolina, Mississippi and Arkansas are safe (and FL NC VA are lean McCain); or that Arizona, Montana, Nebraska, and the Dakotas are safe (and CO NM NV are lean McCain). Texas, once again, would be useful for either group.

3) McCain and California - As I mentioned above that Obama winning FL or TX would make things very easy, McCain could probably do the same thing in California. The state is probably the friendliest of the "Solid Obama" states to McCain. It's also the only way he could win if he lost MI PA OH.

4) GOP VP selection - I see three possible paths to victory for McCain. Strategy 1 involves focusing on the 55 EV of California as much as possible. Schwarzenegger would be the obvious VP choice, even though it might not help; but he's not eligible; maybe something like Carly Fiorina. Strategy 2 is the 58 EV of MI OH PA. Here, there once again aren't any governors or senators of note (Voinovich is unlikely), and I doubt Rob Portman is going to get consideration; maybe Mitt Romney's Michigan connections are the best regional tie he could get. Strategy 3 is the "We're tough and macho and Obama is an evil wimp that will surrender to the terrorists", and that can take virtually anyone, though Joe Lieberman would probably be the most likely candidate for that strength.