Saturday, February 07, 2004

Electronic voting

The Pentagon (who I think know something about information security) has cancelled an internet voting system for troops because it 'could not guarantee voting records would be kept secure, thereby calling into question the integrity of the process'.

Behold the power of the blog!

I like today's Doonesbury - is it just cynical old me who thinks that the last panel is probably very close to the truth about the Dean campaign?

Of course today many bloggers will be mentioning this story (found via Harry) with various additions of 'see! look how important blogs are!' while neglecting to realise that the possibility of Blair actually writing even one of the entries that are posted to 'his' blog are somewhere in the range of slim to none.

Secret history revealed

Many people often argue about why the Cold War came to an end. Historians can now look to another period now as the mystery has been solved - we owe it all to David Hasselhoff. (found via the Dustbinman Institute for Historical Research)

Separated at birth?

John Kerry and Michael Schumacher (it's a chin thing):



Both, of course, will be looking for reasons for champagne in November, though I understand it's not the done thing to spray it from the White House balcony.

Friday, February 06, 2004

Wernham Hogg, Springfield branch

How much do you want to be that this won't happen, and the 'Simpsons insider' quoted is probably closer to a Groundskeeper Willie than a Monty Burns in the production hierarchy? (found via Jade)

Thursday, February 05, 2004

Talking of parallels

Today's Popbitch had some interesting speculation about the Micheal Jackson trial:
As Jackson is nearly broke and no more use to the music industry as a recording artist, it's unlikely he'll have the legal firepower to get off this time.

Instead, this deeply troubled man is going to be torn apart in a media feeding frenzy that reflects a new mood in society: people are starting to resent celebrities and the influence they wield. Jacko will be first sacrificial lamb.
They also mentioned an interesting, though probably flawed, historical parallel with the Fatty Arbuckle case:
The growing impact of movies meant Arbuckle was one of the first mass market celebrities, and in 1921 he faced accusations of raping a young starlet. Virginia Rappe died after a party in Arbuckle's hotel, and the story got out that she was killed by him raping her with a piece of ice.

Newspapers saw they could exploit Arbuckle's celebrity, and the public's prurient disapproval of Hollywood's wild image during prohibition, to make huge sales by publishing these lurid stories.

After two trials Arbuckle was acquitted but he and his career were destroyed. Arbuckle died a broken man, 13 years later, aged only 46.
Which reminded me of an interesting Kim Newman story, The Pierce-Arrow stalled, and... that looks at an alternate Hollywood, and the America it creates, in a world where Arbuckle never made it to that infamous party.

Pluggage

A couple of film-related bits that some of you might find interesting.

First, if you've got access to digital radio then Oneword's show Cinemascope is well worth listening to (Wednesdays at 6pm, repeated on Saturday mornings sometime, IIRC) - it's a funny, irreverent film review show that still manages to be quite informative about the quality of new releases. (Full disclosure: the presenters are friends and colleagues of mine, but I'd still say it was good if they weren't - my flatmate, who doesn't know any of them, was laughing at it too)

Second, I've recently signed up for QFlicks, an online DVD rental service that seems to be a hell of a lot easier and cheaper than going to Blockbuster, with a much wider selection. There's probably a catch somewhere, but I haven't found it yet.

Beatable?

Anatole Kaletsky identifies four reasons why he believes Bush is defeatable by the Democrats in November and questions some conventional wisdom:
Given that almost all political experts, not only in Washington and Wall Street, but also in London, Brussels, Tokyo, Moscow, Beijing and the Middle East, still seem to take a Bush re-election for granted, the global implications of what has happened in the past few weeks could be immense. Yet, as I found last month in Davos, the global political and business elites did not seem even to recognise the possibility of US regime change.

Quite why the global chattering classes have been so unanimous in assuming Bush’s re-election has always been a bit of a mystery, at least to me. As is often the case with conventional wisdom, the belief in a Bush victory seemed to owe far more to simple repetition than to logic or evidence.

Wednesday, February 04, 2004

About last night

First, results from last night's primaries are here and (for Simon) there's an overall delegate scorecard available here. Kerry now has a lead among delegates, with more than twice as many as Dean, who's ahead of Edwards and Clark.

It was a good night for Kerry, quite good for Clark and Edwards and not that good for Dean. Kerry won 5 and picked up 2nd and 3rd in the other two, Edwards and Clark both showed they can win states in South Carolina and Oklahoma, respectively and Dean did pretty poorly across the board, though he managed to pick up a few delegates in New Mexico and Arizona. At this point, it's still a contest against expectations as much as the other candidates with candidates seeking to show that they're still viable and capable of conducting a challenge. Despite some frantic lowering of expectations from the Dean campaign over the last week, they probably did the worst - even though they were publically not expecting a win, they were hoping to get over the 15% viability threshold in a few places to pick up delegates and that didn't happen for them. A very poor fifth place in South Carolina, the first real Southern primary, is not a good harbinger of success in the rest of the South.

Edwards has again shown that he can get very strong late surges in states which to me indicates that the more people see of him, the more they like him. He ran Clark to the wire in Oklahoma, saw off a strong challenge from Kerry in South Carolina and got a solid second in Missouri, where he did very little campaigning. He's perhaps the inverse of Dean, who voters seem to be tiring of the more they see of him - he's dropped off from high early support in almost all the states he's contested and some reports I read indicated that his showings in Arizona and New Mexico include a lot of absentee ballots (perhaps 50% of his total in New Mexico) cast two or three weeks ago, before Iowa and New Hampshire punctured the Dean bubble. Clark had the kind of showing Dean would have been happier with, picking up a few second and third places and delegates as well as the all-important first state victory meaning, of course, that Dean is now the only candidate not to have won anywhere.

The next week of primaries could be the start of the winnowing process that may lead to there being just two candidates left by Super Tuesday at the start of March. Though it has to be said that rumours of campiagn death are often exaggerated this year and all four could pick up enough good news to keep them going throughout this month. The five states that vote - Michigan, Washington and Maine at the weekend, then Virginia and Tennessee on Tuesday - do look as though they're splitting into two distinct contests. Kerry takes on Dean in the North at the weekend, then Clark faces Edwards in the South on Tuesday. Dean has to get a win this weekend - it seems both Clark and Edwards are saving their fire for Tuesday, so he has to show he can beat Kerry in a head-to-head contest. A failure this weekend would probably mean that the 'Anyone But Kerry' camp would switch to either Clark or Edwards as the man to stop him.

With the withdrawal of Lieberman, Clark and Edwards are left to fight for the mantle of the leading centrist/DLC/Clinton Democrat candidate and to show that they can appeal to the south. Kerry, especially if he gets a bounce from a good weekend, will probably be campaigning in Virginia and Tennessee, but he'll be looking for strong third places while the other two battle it out for the victories. If one of them picks up both, then it's probably game over for the other. Of course, if Kerry picks up one or both, then it might well be game over for both of them.

In short, Kerry's looking for two or three wins at the weekend and a strong showing on Tuesday, Dean needs at least one win (and preferably the more delegate-rich Michigan or Washington, rather than Maine) and not to do too badly on Tuesday. Clark and Edwards will be hoping to pick up a couple of good third places at the weekend, then see off the other on Tuesday.

And after that, whoever's still in the race gets to go on to fight in DC, Nevada, Wisconsin, Utah, Idaho and Hawaii. I wonder if any of the candidates have incentive schemes for their campaign staff - whoever does the best work over the next week gets to go and work in Las Vegas or Honolulu, while the ones who've done worst end up in Salt Lake City and Boise?

Squeaker

This is a fun political night. Five states seem decided - Kerry has taken Delaware, Missouri, North Dakota and (probably) Arizona, Edwards has a good win in South Carolina, but the real interest is in New Mexico and Oklahoma. Both look like going right to the wire - Edwards and Clark are neck-and-neck in Oklahoma, with first one, then the other taking a narrow lead as precincts declare. Kerry's third, but only a few percentage points behind (it's currently about 30-30-26).

New Mexicos' results are only just starting to come in, but it's looking like a three-way battle between Kerry, Dean and Clark. A win for Dean would be a big prize on what was looking like a bad night for him while Clark can still harbour hopes of winning two states tonight.

Seven Stars

It's looking like an interesting night of primaries - Edwards has a big win in South Carolina, Kerry has taken Missouri and Delaware, Oklahoma is a three way fight between them and Clark. Nothing yet from New Mexico, North Dakota or Arizona. Arizona may be interesting to watch as well, the results from there and Oklahoma will be key to whether Clark continues - he really needs a win to stay in the race - and a good showing there from Edwards could seriously dent any Kerry momentum tonight.

It's probably all over for Lieberman tonight - Political Wire reports he's preparing to withdraw. Oliver Willis and Pandagon have the obituaries for 'Joementum'.

Update: All the results on one page from CNN

Tuesday, February 03, 2004

Parallels

I can't find a picture online to test if my vague recollections of Elektra: Assassin stand up to reality, but something finally clicked into place the other day and I realised who it was that John Edwards reminds me of: Satanic Presidential candidate Ken Wind. I know there are a few comic fans out there who may have a copy of E:A to refer to, so please let me know if I'm right or wrong in spotting this.

Elsewhere, tonight they're voting in what the BBC is calling the Super Seven states. I'm not sure if I'm going to stay up and watch the results this week - last week, I stayed up for New Hampshire and got no surprises, the week before I slept through Iowa and got lots of them. So, maybe I'll be up with my mix of second-hand commentary and obscure trivia, and maybe I won't. Oliver Willis, Pandagon and Atrios could be good places to look for commentary if that's what you want and I've found there's a certain degree of enjoyment watching the comments of the extreme Deaniacs at Daily Kos as they try and spin every disaster into a victory. Some of them are so good at it, I wonder if they're really just angling for a job with Prentice McCabe.

RSS update

James Russell informed me that the much-vaunted Blogger Atom RSS feed doesn't seem to work too well (for him, at least) so I've added in a second RSS feed courtesy of RSSify at WCC (and found via Spin) which should hopefully ensure that those of you using RSS/XML will be able to find one feed that works.

Profiles in electability

Reading this Guardian profile of John Kerry this morning reminded me of a longer New Yorker article by Joe Klein I'd read over a year ago back when he started his bid for the White House. It's worth a read if you've got the time, as it's a pretty good profile that leaves you feeling that you've actually learned something about the man.

Monday, February 02, 2004

Livingstone selected

London labour members have voted for Ken Livingstone to be their Mayoral candidate. Almost 90% in favour amongst both members and affiliate sections, which means that about 5,000 London Labour members didn't want him.

In other mayoral news, this morning's Guardian featured a report that Livingstone's brokered a deal to have the final say over his manifesto while Simon Hughes has launched the Blair Mayor Project.

Porta-Beeb

I agree with Matt that Robert Harris' latest column on the BBC is excellent and it's a reminder of something that I suspect others as well as me have forgotten - the role of Chairman of the BBC is an important one for the Corporation. It may seem obvious to state that, but it's been forgotten over the last ten years or so as the BBC has recently had two pretty dominant figures as Directors-General in Birt and Dyke, but they're a break from the norm for DGs.

Given the candidates that have been suggested for DG (my guess would be it'll probably be Abramsky or Byford), it seems unlikely that the next occupant of the job is going to seek to make any wholesale changes in the style of Birt or Dyke. Indeed, after all the work Dyke has done to expand the BBC, much of the new DG's work is going to be concerned with the new digital and online services that were created under Dyke, rather than seeking new areas to expand in. Unlike Birt and Dyke, the new DG is likely to be a much more behind the scenes figure, leaving the Chairman to be more of the public face of the corporation, restoring the old Beeb status quo between the two positions rather than the 90s version.

In short, the issue of who becomes the new Chairman is of fundamental importance to the future of the BBC, not least because of their role in appointing the next DG but also because they'll set the tone for the organisation as a whole and, as Harris points out, that can infiltrate the rest of the media. One thinks that Blair must be sorely tempted to install John Birt in there, but I'm sure that even he would recognise it for a very bad idea.

More and more, I'm coming to the strange conclusion that, out of the candidates suggested, Michael Portillo is looking like the best option for the BBC. All the suggested candidates are 'Establishment' in some way or other, even Dimbleby, and one wonders how much any of them would stand up to Government pressure rather than buckling and not wanting to make a scene. To me, Portillo seems like the person who wouldn't give way just to make things easy for himself. Unlike Patten, another Conservative who's been linked with the job, Portillo has moved towards the centre in his political views, but he hasn't seemed to revise his opinion of New Labour at all, even as he approaches them.

Of course, it could be that all his post-1997 mellowing has been a ruse and as soon as he gets control of the Beeb he'll either close it or turn it into a right-wing propaganda factory, but it'll be an interesting time anyway. Plus, the political junkies out there have got to be having some sweaty palms at the possibility of a by-election in Kensington and Chelsea.

Could it be 'bye bye' to Dean tomorrow night?

Just looking at some of the latest polls from the states voting tomorrow in the Democrat primaries and while Kerry seems to be surging, the most interesting story I can see is that Dean is really starting to struggle. He doesn't look like even getting close to winning a state tomorrow, whereas all the other candidates seem likely to get into close races in at least one state even if Kerry sweeps the board. Even Lieberman seems to have a chance in Delaware at the time of writing.

Beyond that though, Dean has a greater problem. Even while the Dean campaign was acknowledging being low on cash, they were saying that they were going to keep winning delegates in lots of states and that would keep them going to the convention (which opened up the possible nightmare scenario of a brokered convention, but that's for another post). However, the rules for the Democratic primaries (I think they're new this year, but I'm not sure) have an interesting little twist - you need to score 15% of the votes in a primary(*) to get any delegates. And Dean is currently below 15% in each of the polls I've seen. So, while Kerry, Edwards, Clark and Lieberman look like getting delegates tomorrow, Dean's going to add nothing, which doesn't really help him. A good showing in parts of South Carolina could mean Al Sharpton gets more delegates next week.

* - Just to clarify, a candidate can get less than 15% in a particular state, but still win delegates if he wins more than 15% of the vote in a single congressional district, as some delegates are assigned on a district, rather than state, level.

Update: Slightly more up to date polls from Kos. Seems to be the same story, but Oklahoma's looking like it could be fun to watch, with every vote counting. I trust my readers in Oklahoma are going to go vote tomorrow.

Undelivered promise

The headline Jackson comes undone at Super Bowl seemed like it might be an interesting story until I discovered it was about Janet, not Michael. Still, who'd have thought that Janet Jackson would have to resort to doing Judy Finnegan impersonations to get attention?

Sunday, February 01, 2004

We're probably not related

Via a blogger whose name I will not mention while we're in a state of blogwar for no readily apparent reason I discover the Barlow Girls on some US 'sex is just a tool of Satan' site.

But, I can still hold my head up as they're probably (hopefully) not relations of mine - mainly because my family doesn't have any close relatives in the US, but also because many American Barlows get their surname from a different source to my family. Ours comes originally from one of the several Barlows in England whereas in America - as I discovered from wannabe Congressman Lou Barlow - many Barlows are of Hungarian origin and it's an anglicisation of a Hungarian surname. Which means I'm not related to the vampire in Salem's Lot either.

Vote early, vote just once, but express a full preference

Reading Peter's comments on the Guardian competition, a thought suddenly struck me - not one Liberal Democrat blogger who's mentioned it has complained about the voting system yet. Is this a record?

For the record, I'd like to state that I believe the competition should be returning five winners chosen by single transferable vote, with the ERS brought in to oversee the ballot and to ensure it all goes smoothly. But then, as a fully paid up wishy-washy muesli*-eating peacenik Guardianista liberal I thoroughly disapprove of all competition because of its divisive nature (as I'm sure do all the other ten non-Cuthbertson nominees) and thus Peter will clearly win the competition anyway, as none of our readers will want to vote in this illiberal system.

(* - Shredded Wheat, actually...I can't stand muesli)

The Dark Horse

From the ads at The Onion, I discovered that America's Sundance TV channel is reshowing the Robert Altman/Gary Trudeau series Tanner '88. Now there's something I'd like to be in America with a cable TV for. It's the old series, but with some new material added, with the characters from the series looking back at the events of the fictional 1988 from 2004.

I can remember watching Tanner in what must have been 1989 or 1990, I believe, when ITV showed it at something like 1am back when late-night TV was still little more than a novelty and there was an amazing mix of stuff available then. It's unlikely that ITV would show it now, but I can hope that someone (Channel 4? BBC Four?) might buy it to show it over here. This MSNBC article gives a good introduction to the series and the picture at the top of it features a Doesn't she look young? moment for the actress Cynthia Nixon, who then played Tanner's daughter, but is now best known as Miranda on Sex And The City.