The principles that rule this blog

Principles that will govern my thoughts as I express them here (from my opening statement):


  • Freedom of the individual should be as total as possible, limited only by the fact that nobody should be free to cause physical injury to another, or to deprive another person of his freedoms.
  • Government is necessary primarily to provide those services that private enterprise won't, or won't at a price that people can afford.
  • No person has a right to have his own beliefs on religious, moral, political, or other controversial issues imposed on others who do not share those beliefs.

I believe that Abraham Lincoln expressed it very well:

“The legitimate object of government is to do for a community of people whatever they need to have done, but cannot do, at all, or cannot
so well do, for themselves — in their separate, individual capacities.”


Comments will be invited, and I will attempt to reply to any comments that are offered in a serious and non-abusive manner. However, I will not tolerate abusive or profane language (my reasoning is that this is my blog, and so I can control it; I wouldn't interfere with your using such language on your own!)

If anyone finds an opinion that I express to be contrary to my principles, they are welcome to point this out. I hope that I can make a rational case for my comments. Because, in fact, one label I'll happily accept is rationalist.

Monday, March 24, 2008

It's getting vicious!

James Carville (a supporter of Hillary Clinton) recently compared Bill Richardson to Judas Iscariot for giving his support to Barack Obama although he'd been given Cabinet positions in the Clinton administration. This goes to show how vicious the Democratic nomination fight is getting.

How glad I am to be supporting John McCain at this point. The Democrats are making McCain's election in November more likely by their behavior!

Friday, March 21, 2008

"Please order in English"

A cheesesteak restaurant in Philadelphia put up a sign, "This is America. Please order in English." As a result, he was charged with discrimination. But fortunately, he was recently vindicated. Yes, this is America, and Joey Vento, the owner, was ruled within his rights by the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations.

Why was he even charged with discrimination, though? Millions of immigrants came to this country and learned the majority language. My father came to this country about 80 years ago as a child, and the local druggist made him learn English by not letting him order an ice cream in his native Yiddish after a while. The druggist understood Yiddish and had taken his orders for a while in that language, but he knew that this 11-year-old kid that eventually became my father would need to learn English to function in America. And my father, by the age of 15, had graduated from the 8th grade, though four years previously he had come to this country devoid of the English language. And by the time I was around, years later, my father spoke English without a significant foreign accent.

Joey Vento was right to do what he did. And thank Heaven that the final decision came the way it did, even if it was years in the making.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Limits of discussion

Today I saw a comment in which the poster described me as "delusional." This goes beyond the bounds of propriety.

It is all right to disagree with me on here, and to give a cogent argument. Insulting me goes beyond the pale, and I will exercise my rights as owner of the blog to delete such posts.

Friday, March 14, 2008

The Ferraro/Obama spat

Geraldine Ferraro said one thing that you just can't!

It is just not cricket in this Democratic primary campaign to say what everyone already knows — that Barack Obama, a man who four years ago was an obscure Illinois state senator, would never be considered Presidential material if he were white. Of course, she also said that he wouldn't if he were a woman — which just isn't so; just look at Ferraro's preferred candidate, Hillary Clinton, who is only slightly more qualified for the office, or in fact, you might look at Ferraro herself, who was a Vice-Presidential nominee with essentially no qualifications!

The Democratic Party simply cannot abide anyone saying things like that, but that party has simply given itself over to group politics. It isn't what someone stands for, or that person's qualifications, that matter to the Democrats, but just whether they can contribute to the party's desire for "diversity" in gender, race, or whatever.

Just look at their rules for picking convention delegates — certain seats are reserved for women and others for men. (Of course, that any of the seats are reserved for men is something of a surprise!) You can't just vote for convention delegates; you vote for male delegates and female delegates.

The hypocrisy of the Democratic Party is amazing. But what can you expect? That's why I'm happy to be a Republican.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

On Eliot Spitzer

Some people have argued that Eliot Spitzer, the New York Governor who just resigned over a prostitution scandal, should be cut some slack because "prostitution is a victimless crime." Ordinarily, I would sympathize with this point of view. I strongly believe in the libertarian concept that something should be criminalized only if it hurts someone. But this is different. Why?

It is just this — Spitzer himself, as attorney general, prosecuted prostitution rings. Spitzer prosecuted people for money laundering who did some of the same things he did to hide his purchases of prostitutes' services. In short, he himself acted toward others as if the things he is guilty of are reprehensible. So it is poetic justice that he was the one to suffer.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Modified approval voting

benham said:

What do you think of Range with a 0,1,2 ballot (or Approval with a voter option
to "half-approve", or Approval-minus-Disapproval with a voter option to do
neither)?

This is fine in my estimation. My only objection to Approval Voting is that one cannot separate disapproval from neutral, and this solves the problem. Actually, I have in the past favored just such an option as benham's "Approval-minus-Disapproval with a voter option to do neither."

Calculations of Bayesian regret

Broken Ladder referred to the "millions" of simulated elections in Smith's calculations. But any type of calculation of this kind is going to depend on the algorithm that generates the data. And a different algorithm might generate a different set of data.

I do not mean to denigrate Smith's experiment. It performed a worthwhile function. But it is still an estimate of the validity of these different electoral systems, not a mathematical demonstration, and has to be considered in that category. Even so, I think the experiment really does show how much better range voting is than any of the alternative systems. But Smith himself would not (I imagine) claim those numbers would have perfect validity in all cases.

"Leaving me cold"

I originally wrote:
I've never been very happy with the way we vote here, using plurality or "first-past-the-post" voting, but most of the proposals I've seen for reform leave me cold.

Apparently "benham" thought I was referring to IRV ("instant runoff voting," usually referred to in older literature as "alternative vote") and asked what about that system leaves me cold. Actually, in a system such as Australia's, where there are really only two parties that count (actually three, but the Liberal and National parties are so closely aligned that they can be considered one party), I think it works rather well. If you like a minor party, you can give it your first preference, then save your second preference for a major-party candidate and actually make a difference to the voting result. I'm not so sure it works as well if you have a number of different parties which agree on some issues and disagree on others, but I've never seen a place other than Australia that uses it (it's been adopted in some cities in the USA, but so recently that the results of the experiment haven't been seen).

Actually, the systems that "leave me cold" meant approval voting, the Borda Count, and Condorcet voting, and there will probably be further posts of mine addressing these specifically.

On Barack Obama

Broken Ladder wrote:


For instance, it appears that Barack Obama is going to be our next President (thank god almighty). And an online Range Voting mock election I held, that began about 16 months ago, has Barack Obama winning among about 5400 voters. And looking at the overall results, it's clear that the "net roots" make vastly more intelligent candidate choices than the average voter. So there's a very good chance that Obama really is the social utility maximizer -- and yet he's probably going to win with our incredibly horrible voting method. Some times you just get lucky.

I hope to God he is wrong. Obama is just the sort of radical we cannot survive. On top of that, he is so inexperienced that he could just make a hash of our whole government. If we had a range voting system, he'd get the lowest possible rating from me. But I think by November the American people will find out just how much of a dangerous radical he is, and consign him to the same dustbin of history that George McGovern inhabits. Sure, he's leading in the polls, but so was Michael Dukakis (by even more!) at points in the 1988 campaign.

What a surprise!

This blog has been around for a little over 2 years — my first postings were dated February 10, 2006. And up until this week, it's looked as if almost nobody ever looked at it — there were so few comments that I sometimes wondered whether anyone saw my words. I posted on a lot of controversial topics, from Iraq to gun control and intelligent design, yet got almost no response.

Then, almost as a throwaway, I made a post about a topic that seems almost too technical for most people to care: range voting. It was a digression from the usual topics of discussion here. And all of a sudden, to that one post I have gotten more responses than to the whole two years of previous posts, several times over! What a surprise!

Because there are so many comments that address a number of different aspects of this topic, I'm going to split up my discussion into several posts today, each responding to something different. But thank you all for coming in here to discuss it.

Monday, March 10, 2008

And now for a digression...

Taking a bit of a break from the 2008 election, I've just discovered a fascinating site. I've never been very happy with the way we vote here, using plurality or "first-past-the-post" voting, but most of the proposals I've seen for reform leave me cold. In particular, I'm rather hostile to the "approval voting" system, where you vote for all the candidates you can support, but with no way to distinguish between someone you really don't like and someone you're unfamiliar with. Now I've found just the system that fills the bill; it's called "range voting." You can rate each candidate, something like the way we rate books or CDs on Amazon, and the highest total rating wins. See the site here.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

More on the McCain/Obama difference

Yesterday I saw a newspaper with a poll result that indicates that more Democrats are inclined to support McCain than Republicans to support Obama. This shouldn't be too surprising. McCain is more moderate than many Republicans; this is in fact why some of the more extreme Republicans had some trouble supporting him. By contrast, Obama is more extreme than many Democrats, and should repel those Republicans whose vote Obama might want to court.

Yet other polls show Obama winning an election against McCain — at least if the election were to be held right now. This does worry me a bit, but of course Michael Dukakis was leading in the polls at one point in the 1988 election! So, given that November is a long way off, I can't be too worried. I think that as soon as the people realize how radical Obama is, he will suffer the same fate that Dukakis, and George McGovern in 1972, did.

I am married to a woman who is enrolled as a Democrat, though she is more conservative than many Democrats are and closer to me politically than one might think based on party affiliation. She is, at the moment, inclined to vote for McCain — though it appears that she still wants to look at the candidates some more before committing to any one. Yet I cannot see, from anything she's said, much likeliness that she might prefer Obama to McCain in the end — I just wish she'd make up her mind.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

McCain vs. ... who?

Yesterday, John McCain got the necessary number of delegates to be sure of the nomination, though who the Democrats will nominate is still up in the air. They've got it down to two candidates, but both of them are pretty much out of the bounds of reason. For on the one hand, we have Barack Obama, who made the strange comment that he would immediately withdraw troups from Iraq, but "might have to send them back in if Al-Qaeda establishes a base" (as if they would up and leave if we did, so they'd have to re-enter Iraq to establish a base; of course, McCain immediately said that he had news for Obama, that Al-Qaeda was in Iraq; but I doubt that Obama was so foolish as to think they weren't, so that is why I figure he must think they would leave Iraq if we did — fat chance!) On the other hand, we have Hillary Clinton, who asked the by-now-famous question as to who we'd rather have answering the red phone at 3 in the morning with a call coming in about some crisis (as if anyone seriously could answer that question any way but "John McCain"!)

Well, McCain has to equip himself to run against whichever one runs against him. But either way, I can't think he has to convince me.