Sunday, March 07, 2004

John Henry Williamsis dead at age 35.

Isn't ironic that dad gets frozen, while the worst son in the world goes directly to the fires of hell?
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In Amsterdam, gay marriages are already ending in divorce. The gay marriage rate is also falling, probably because there is now no back-log of long-time couples itching to get married.
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Here is an amusing column detailing what you can buy at
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Friday, March 05, 2004

This guy has some major stones.
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Wednesday, March 03, 2004

Here is one reaction to Naomi Wolf's claim that she was sexually harrassed by Harold Bloom. The subtitle "Things have come to a pretty pass when a woman takes a clumsy advance too seriously" pretty much sums it up, although it is amusing to hear that Camille Paglia accused Wolf of "hysteria."
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In Florida, some windows alleged to feature an image of Mary have been broken in an act of vandalism.

I'm sure that some Religious Right types will point to it as an example of anti-Christian sentiment in this country which is somehow linked to criticism of Mel Gibson's Passion.

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Tuesday, March 02, 2004

Marge Schott is dead.

My biggest memory of her is not actually my own. I remember my high school biology teacher telling a story about working in her restaurant way back in his childhood and how she made him slow dance with her after closing time.

Of course, the Marge Schott era Reds were also the team of my youth. They went from no first places in the '80s to a sweep of the heavily favored Oakland A's in the first season of the '90s.

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I am less than keen about this case. The organization Catholic Charities of Sacramento lost an appeal to the California Supreme Court and is now required to include birth control in its medical coverage. Catholic Charities unsuccessfully argued that it was covered by the religious exemption in the law.

The various Catholic Charities in California have been rendering unto to Caesar what is Caesar's and providing this coverage under protest. I find it curious that they can avoid birth control by choosing not to offer prescription drug benefits, but find that situation to be a greater evil.

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Monday, March 01, 2004

It strikes me that Condorcet voting schemes have an implicit assumption that there will be no strategic voting or strategic candidates and the possibility of an "illegitimate" outcome in a Condorcet system rests on people attempting such 'strategery." Most attempts to devise new electoral systems try to make it impossible to "game the system."

I would argue that the most important thing that a voting scheme must do is confer legitimacy on the eventual winner in a way that is understandable by a vast majority of the people. However ingenious a method may be, it fails to be an authentic way of selectng leaders if it lacks a broad consensus that the means are legitimate. Most theorists seem to operate on an "if we build it, they will come" level in the same way that some philosophers construct impossible utopias. (Plato, I am looking directly at your ugly mug.) I think that greatly changing the American political system will be as difficult as changing the NFL or NCAA basketball away from single-elimination playoffs, even if other systems are fairer. On the other hand, major league baseball's realignment and addition of wild cards shows that cosmetic or relatively minor changes are possible.

One part of conferring legitimacy involves election according to the democratic principle that all votes are equal. Another part of legitimacy is that there should be a clear winner. A first-past-the-post system feels horribly inauthentic if the winner has a plurality of 23% in a filled field. (A hidden strength of the Electoral College is that it makes races seem less close, conferring a feeling that there has been a decisive winner.) Cumulative voting feels bizarre to a more simple-minded person who belives in "one man, one vote." Condorcet voting will probably have an equal difficulty in swaying the "common man."

As someone whose interest is more in American public opinion, I approach this problem from what people can be talked into accepting. No voting system will ever be perfect and I feel that many proposed methods out there are a) a theoretical improvement on the current system b) not horribly different in the amount of unavoidable error c) less capable of popular support the more they deviate from familiar forms.

There have been military and popular overthrows of democratically elected leaders in many countries. I would argue that the success of a voting system relies on maximizing the willingness of the losers to accept losing.
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