Democratic Disenfranchisement

For me it is always painful to watch our American “Democracy” at work.   I’m an independent and I think that allows me to see more clearly how even when they are combined the Democrat and Republican parties fail to do a good job of representing the country in terms of ideology or action planning.  

Today the Dems decide how to handle the votes in Michigan and Floriday after previously deciding to totally disenfranchise those electorates.  It is certainly true that rules should matter, and true that both campaigns agreed to these rules, and Obama supporters are right to say that it’s not “fair” to allocate to Clinton votes that might have gone to Obama if Florida party hacks and national party hacks had not mangled this process, but it’s *even more unfair* to disenfranchise the Florida voters – again.

I’m guessing they’ll do the 50% allocation thing – ironically the same idea the Republicans had for rogue voting states, though presumably with far less “processing” committee time.

If they did allocate the delegates according to votes in Michigan and Florida here are some scenarios:

Michigan popular vote: 55% to Clinton, 40% Uncommitted to Obama –
Clinton gains 23 delegates.

Michigan split the uncommitted vote: 75% to Clinton, 20% Obama –
Clinton gains 85 delegates

Florida: 50% to Clinton, 33% to Obama. Clinton net gain of 36 delegates.

Thus if we count these states Clinton would gain a net of either 59 delegates or 121 delegates depending on how you allocate the Michigan uncommitted vote.

As of today 201 delegate votes (160 pledged) separate Obama and Clinton so even the rosiest picture for Clinton would still have her trailing Obama, throwing the election squarely to the superdelegates and more party hack back room wheeling and dealing.

Welcome to Democratic Democracy?

More of my views on this at President Picker



Hongqiao Pearl Market, Beijing

Hongqiao Pearl Market, Beijing 449
Originally uploaded by JoeDuck

The Hongqiao Market building was under repair during my April 14 visit, but I think will be beautiful when finished before the Olympic Games.    It is located across the street from the metro stop for the Temple of Heaven, a Beijing Attraction you’ll want to visit.     A day in Biejing would be a shame but if that is all you have and you have great stamina you could visit Tianenmen Square, Forbidden City, Temple of Heaven,  and Wanfujing Street for shopping, food stalls, and souvenir vendors.   All these places are along the excellent Biejing Metro which is very crowded but clean, cheap, and efficient.   Taxis are also cheap and easy to find if you prefer that approach.  For taxis try to have a written description of where you are going to show the driver.  The subways announce the stops in English.

Hongqiao Pearl Market is one of several huge market buildings in Beijing where there are hundreds of vendors in small stalls hawking their wares. I didn’t see any Pearls here but bought a suitcase to carry home all the stuff I bought at … other markets!

Note that the vendors in China often practice a kind of cutthroat capitalism that is not common in the USA. Initially the price they quote you will be far above reasonable and the game is to get them to come down a huge amount while they make you feel guilty for doing that. I enjoyed the little jousting with the vendors, especially because they tended to have good English and I’d bring up other topics to discuss.

However I think the aggressive style common in the markets might upset or intimidate people who were simply looking for a good deal and in that case you should learn to say (phoentic spelling here) “Byao Byao” which means “no!”.

Better Big Bhuddha weather than ours

Originally uploaded by guzhengman

Due to the misty weather when we were there in early April we missed this splendid ride and view of the Tian Tan Buddha at Pol Lin Monestery, Lantau Island, Hong Kong.

The Cable Car is one of the world’s longest and lands you at a sort of tourist village near the monastery and Buddha. We took the Lantau Island Ferry (nice) and bus (comfortable but a pretty long and windy trip).

I think you need to take the bus from Hong Kong a long way to get to the Cable Car, but not sure.

Freeman Dyson on Climate Change Hysteria

Visonary physicist Freeman Dyson most certainly cannot be labelled a “global warming denialist” yet in this review of two new books he is expressing the growing reservation of clear thinkers that for some environmentalists, the gospel of catastrophic climate change is leading them to dismiss intelligent debate and allocate resources in very ineffective ways:

Unfortunately, some members of the environmental movement have also adopted as an article of faith the belief that global warming is the greatest threat to the ecology of our planet. That is one reason why the arguments about global warming have become bitter and passionate. Much of the public has come to believe that anyone who is skeptical about the dangers of global warming is an enemy of the environment. The skeptics now have the difficult task of convincing the public that the opposite is true. Many of the skeptics are passionate environmentalists. They are horrified to see the obsession with global warming distracting public attention from what they see as more serious and more immediate dangers to the planet, including problems of nuclear weaponry, environmental degradation, and social injustice. Whether they turn out to be right or wrong, their arguments on these issues deserve to be heard.

The lack of insight that Dyson notes in the article is expressed well by the sloppy response to Dyson over at, which betrays the naivete many physical scientists bring to the table in terms of a quality grasp of economics and social policy.   The key issue with Climate Change is not that it’s happening or that humans play a significant role – the key issue is what we should do about this and how we should carry on the debate.

I wrote over at

The comments here about discounting strike me as very naive and begging the key question of what we should do.   DICE models aside, the basic issues are how much do we spend (or how much wealth do we forego) on mitigation, when do we spend it, and on what?   We will address these questions whether we do it haphazardly as suggested here, or more analytically as suggested by Dyson and others.  Dyson and most mainstream economists reasonably suggest that we should spend modestly on mitigating CO2 in favor of using those resources to mitigate current catastrophic conditions and saving them to use on more effective mitigation measures of the future.

<i>So, we are a lot richer now than when the last Moa was eaten. Can we use that wealth to bring back the Moa?</i>

No, we cannot, but what if we use those *extra* riches we would not have today to keep 10 species from extinction?  Without looking at both sides of these equations we lose our ability for reasoned analyses.

I’d be interested in hearing where people here would draw the line in spending to mitigate warming?   The number *must* be between 0% and 100% of global GDP.

Octopus Is Welcome in Hong Kong

Octopus? 014

Originally uploaded by JoeDuck

Octopus is a type of currency/card for Hong Kong transit that allows you on *most* but not all ferries, subways, and I think all busses and most trains. We did not use it but I sure liked the sign – this was at the Ferry Pier to Lantau Island.

Ferries are one of the coolest things about Hong Kong. There are dozens of piers along the main waterfront heading off in all directions – to Kowloon, Macau, Lantau, and many more places. Be sure to take at least one trip on the Star Ferry from Hong Kong to Kowloon, and try to return about 8pm when the waterfront of Hong Kong is lit to showcase the many tall buildings and skyline. There are also tour boats for this sight.

Unfortunately for us the mist and fog was so thick in both Hong Kong and Shanghai that we missed most of the glory of these bright waterfront cityscapes – two of the most stunning in the world.

Tian Tan Buddha, Lantau Island Hong Kong

Over at Travel and History I posted one of Charley’s buddah pix from Hong Kong.   Thanks to the eee PC crash I lost over 100 of my Hong Kong area and train trip pictures from the first 3 days of the China adventure.  Luckily Charley and I had each taken quite a few.

Tian Tan Buddha

This was the beginning of our adventure that took us from Hong Kong’s piers out to Lantau Island via a big ferry, then via a small ferry to unknown China Sea territories looking for the Tai O fishing village, which we did not find.     

Free Google blog at your own website? Priceless.

Google has a great feature where you can add a free blogger blog to your website.  I use that for some other blogs though JoeDuck is hosted at WordPress, which offers more powerful content management features than blogger blogs.

Here are the directions for a free blogger blog.  This is for domains hosted at Godaddy but similar will work at most registrars except for Verio where you’ll need to use the IP and not 

Setting up a free blog that will be hosted at involves TWO basic steps.   First setting up the blog at, then configuring the DNS at Godaddy to direct people to the blog as if it was at your website.   The existing pages at your *website* will be unaffected by these change though be sure you have pages backed up for good measure.  

1)  Set up account or log in to existing Google account at
2)  Create new blog with blog address (URL) “”
3) Under “advanced settings” choose “custom domain” and enter in box:

1) Next, head to your Godaddy account and “manage domains”.  Select
2) Click on “Total DNS Control….”
3) Create create CNAME record
4) Enter Alias name:
5) Points to Host name: 

The blog will have a small default blog toolbar at the top of the blog that can be deleted as well.  As far as I know Google is OK with this modification to delete the obnoxious toolbar though I’m not positive it’s OK.    I don’t have time to look up that little coding hack now but will try to post later …

Pez Dispenser: $200

If you have an old Pez dispensers from the 1960’s or 1970’s you’ll want to take good care of them.  Bless my mom for throwing my 8 or so from childhood into a box where I recovered them a few years ago after checking ebay pricing on my Casper Pez Dispenser, which is worth about $150.00-$200

I’m not sure but I think these values are up from a few years back, so Pez dispenser investment may be better than the alternatives?     I’ve got several and although Casper is worth the most I think they’ll fetch over $1000 total.    This might be a fun way to give to charity via auctioning these off, though I kind of like the idea of keeping them around.

Hot Wheels or Matchboxes?     Before you put them out in the garage sale you better price them at Ebay….


The Dollar Value of Homemaking

Here’s a neat article that assigns work values to the many tasks taken on by a homemaker in the course of a week.   I’m a little skeptical that the 80+ hours totalled here is a reasonable average but this seems to be a better approach than the recent study that assigned a huge value of about 116,00 annual to stay at home mom work.  Here is the calculator they provide.  That really does not jive with a rational view of how to pay people for doing work.     As the first article notes one realistic approach is to ask “what would somebody else do all this work for?”, though they also note that we undervalue domestic work in our economy.   I agree but don’t think we undervalue it enough to justify the claim of 116k.    For example if that was actually available to people to do the work you’d see a huge number of other professionals “apply” for homemaking jobs, which in turn would bring down the wage as demand for the job soared.

What is a realistic number?   Good question…working on that and paying myself handsomely for doing it.


Online Abuse Part II: Pownce TOS Violations

Ariel Waldman is a prominent tech blogger and also the community manager at Pownce.  She has ignited a huge online debate about Twitter failing to police a harassing commenter at Twitter, comments that appear to have come from a person who had been harassing her for some time. 

I’ve really been leaning to her point of view though I’d like to see the dialog and I’d like to see the community working harder to make sure this type of abuse is dealt with more harshly.    Ariel seems to think Pownce does a great job here.

However, at Ariel’s own Pownce page commenters are calling Sarah Lacy the C** word, with only a small admonishment from Ariel and no removal of the comment.     Ariel can correctly say that ongoing harassment is a lot more serious than a “one off” insult, but the use of th c**  word plays heavily in her critique of Twitter’s response to her harassment.

The point here is NOT that Ariel is wrong here or that she should be banning everybody at Pownce that uses the c* word, though maybe that is a good idea as you can hardly make a case this noun can’t be replaced with less objectionable material to get any point across.   Ariel presumably has the power to ban comments and/or users as the community manager at Pownce.  

The point is that the community standards *including Ariel’s* are far too low.   Twitter is only a small part of the problem here.   The problem is … all of us, and only all of us can fix this.