Be counted or else.

June 4, 2009

Morning Edition is talking today about the usual troubles the census goes through to get everyone counted. Apparently just about everyone in NYC belongs to one of those groups least likely to return a census form: young and single, immigrant, or African American. Apparently Hispanics are an exception to the immigrant trend for whatever reason. One of the suggested reasons for immigrants not returning census forms is their being unaware of what a census is. Is that really possible? While I’m sure that some of the states which haven’t had a functioning government in decades might miss out on the fun, I’m not personally aware of any country without a census.

Actually, I assume that in most countries it’s more important than it is here. Much of the developing world uses some form of representational quotas to fill their legislative bodies and apportion cabinet positions. The result of that could be that it’s more contentious or that it’s more corrupt, but either way everyone has a stake in making the census prominent in the national consciousness.

I was in Turkey for census day in 1997. Not having any advanced warning, that was the day we had chosen to get back overland from Trabzon to Istanbul, via Giresun. This was made nearly impossible by the fact that every 50 yards or so across the entire country there was someone dressed like this demanding papers of everyone on the street:

Turkish Police

Apparently no one is allowed to leave their homes on census day unless they have advanced parole. The dolmuşes  (shared taxis—yeah, I’m sure that plural should be made with a ‘lu’, but you get the idea) were getting stopped constantly and everyone had to show their permission slips. It was only in Giresun that we finally found an English paper that explained what was going on. (No one on the Black Sea coast seems to speak English and either I couldn’t figure out what Volkszählung meant or they were using something else to describe it in German—everyone in Turkey speaks German, while I only pretend to—or they were using some other phrase to describe it. I’m guessing the latter because the word seems pretty obvious 12 years later and in writing.)

I just wonder what sort of effect that type of experience has on people—would they be more or less likely to return a US census form? Would it have to do with fear of the census or the need for serious encouragement to actually bother with it?


Senator to ISPs: “Think twice” about Net neutrality… or else (Ars Technica)

Pledging to use “every ounce of my energy to protect network neutrality,” Wyden had a message for ISPs who might be pondering new charges for various forms of access: “think twice.” If ISPs start down that road, they might soon find that they lose key legal protections including “safe harbors” and tax freedom.

Thank you Senator Wyden. This really hits right to the heart of what’s wrong with libertarian arguments against Net Neutrality and other issues relating to deregulation of utilities and communication industries. While “we own the pipes” may seem like a common sense argument, all of these infrastructures were established with massive public investment in the form of tax breaks, monopoly grants, regulatory exemptions, eminent domain seizures, and outright subsidies. The industries exist from the beginning in a context of non-competitive (non-free) and distorted markets. “Free market” and small government arguments for further deregulation to the detriment of the public interest are extrUsing femely disingenuous in these cases, and it’s disappointing when otherwise intelligent conservatives fail to recognize this and reflexively argue the pro-corporate (but actually anti-market and anti-consumer) position.

“…But he is.”

McCain’s eligibility is being challenged on the basis of his(apparently insufficiently documented) birth on a military base in the Panama Canal Zone. I pronounced wrongly on this very issue (without reference to McCain) two days ago. I assumed “natural born” referred to anyone with birthright citizenship, including those born to citizen parents on non-US territory.

The key constitutional issue is whether the Canal Zone was part of the United States at the time of McCain’s birth. In a memorandum, Tribe and Olson cite a 1986 Supreme Court ruling stating that the United States “exercised sovereignty” over the 10-mile-wide area between 1904 and 1979, when it was handed back to the Panamanians. Hollander and others challenging McCain’s eligibility argue that the zone was never part of the United States.

Duggin, the constitutional law scholar, said the sovereignty question is “more complex” than Olson and Tribe concede. People born in some U.S. territories, such as American Samoa, are not recognized as citizens of the United States.

According to a State Department manual, U.S. military installations abroad cannot be considered “part of the United States” and “A child born on the premises of such a facility is not subject to the jurisdiction of the United States and does not acquire U.S. citizenship by reason of birth.” Tribe said the manual is an “opinion” with no legal status.

So McCain’s being eligible for the presidency may hinge on declaring parts of Latin America ceded to the US temporarily on which the US has constructed military bases to be under US sovereignty? Hmm…interesting.

There are few precedents for someone born outside the 50 states running for president, let alone becoming president. The best example the McCain camp has been able to come up with is Vice President Charles Curtis, who served under President Herbert Hoover and was born in the territory of Kansas in 1860, a year before it became a state. The 12th Amendment requires that vice presidents possess the same qualifications as presidents.

If one wanted to nitpick, one would point out that all of the presidents up to Jackson plus William Henry Harrison, were born before the Declaration of Independence, and thus “outside the 50 States.”

McCain’s Birth Abroad Stirs Legal Debate –

S.A. Aiyar writes in his column:

Which of the three candidates for the US Presidency — Hilary Clinton, Barak Obama, and John McCain — will be best for India? Most Indians would opt for Obama or Clinton. But from a policy viewpoint, McCain would be best for India.

There have been a large number of such editorials in the Indian papers lately. Off-hand I’d say more than in the English language Pakistani or Middle Eastern papers, but my reading habits are biased by the fact that the Indian papers do a lot more with RSS (pun only partially intended – you’d think the Pakistanis could settle for atom!)

He is correct that most of the editorials seem to favor Obama or Clinton. The former seems to be the anti-imperialist favorite, and the latter (+1) is an old favorite of the NRI and NRI influenced crowd. Unfortunately Swamiji fills the next few paragraphs with some nonsense about gender and race which I won’t repeat here. Some of it is of the sort Americans would probably consider somehow distorted or misplaced (if you as an American have ever had to hear US history summarized back to you by someone who learned it from Indian schoolbooks, you know the feeling.) He also highlights some differences between how Indians and Americans perceive the world and America’s role in it’s history, of which many Americans are probably unaware, such as the fact that your average Indian of any political persuasion old enough to be aware of – if not remember it – views the Vietnam War as an act of American arrogance, imperial ambition, and naked aggression in which we got our just deserts.

Aiyar’s main perspective, though, is one which I think Americans should pay attention to:

However, what matters for Indo-US relations is not the colour, gender or war record of any presidential candidate. What matters is their position on key bilateral issues. And in this regard, McCain beats Clinton and Obama hollow.

There seems to be alot of focus on how a Democrat is necessary to restore America’s image. But Aiyar suggests – and I agree – that it is McCain who has the best chance of actually being able to bring us back to a position of respect-worthiness on the world stage, and to guide us back to a point where we can work positively with other governments and international bodies to shape effective and sensible policy on issues of international relations, global trade, development, the environment, and the restoration of peace and security in a real sense.

Freedom to Tinker » Blog Archive » NJ Voting Machine Tape Shows Phantom Obama Vote

Blatant abuse

April 18, 2008

New developments in two ongoing cases of the sort of apparent corruption where you can’t help but ask yourself “Can people really be that stupid?” Or at least, “Do they really think we’re that stupid?”:

  1. Sinclair’s Syndrome: Rob Weir breaks down the numbers on the size of Fast Track specification submissions, in response to a patently misleading claim in an ISO FAQ. The short version:

    So where did things stand on the eve of Microsoft’s submission of OOXML to Ecma?
    At that point there had been 187 JTC1 Fast Tracks from Ecma since 1991, with basic descriptive statistics as follows:

    • mean = 103 pages
    • median = 82 pages
    • min = 12 pages
    • max = 767 pages
    • standard deviation = 102 pages

    And what about OOXML, you ask? 6045 pages!

  2. Congress May Seek Criminal Probe of Altered Earmark: Senate leaders from both parties are throwing their support behind a criminal investigation of the actions of Rep. Don Young of Alaska and his staff. Young’s staff inserted a provision for a $10 million highway project in Florida which local officials didn’t even want. Young then received $40,000 in donations from developers set to benefit from the project – obviously demonstrating the average Floridian’s passionate concern for the welfare of the state of Alaska.