Posts Tagged ‘election’

You'll find it on eBay!

Monday, 5 July 2010
Man fined over fake eBay auctions by Dan Whitworth of the BBC

eBay spokesperson Vanessa Canzenni denies that not enough is being done to prevent [shill-bidding].


[eBay user Rezza Faizee, having noted that shill-bidding were a significant problem, said] I honestly don't know what you can do to tackle the problem, I honestly don't.

Catching shill-bidders on eBay used to be one of my hobbies. I would regularly stumble-upon suspicious confluences, start examining auction and bidder histories, and from them often assemble proof that there had been shill-bidding, which proof I would then send to eBay and to the victims. I'm sure that I wasn't the only person engaging in this sort of detection.

But eBay began choking-off the data available to us. With decreasing information, it became ever harder to make the case. It became impossible even to see some of the confluences that would have triggered suspicion in the first place.

For an honest auction firm, there may be an optimal amount of shill-bidding to allow, simply because of enforcement costs. (A perfectly secure trading environment would be prohibitively expensive.) But for a dishonest firm the question is of balancing the gain that otherwise comes from allowing ending prices (and hence fees) to be thus increased, against the alienation of users who consequently reduce their spending. Access to information which both empowers volunteers to catch shill-bidders and alerts users more generally to the occurrence of shill-bidding is, as such, not in the perceived interest of a dishonest firm.

BTW, the changes that reduced our abilities to spot shill-bidders, and which made it more typically impossible for us to prove a case of shill-bidding (as well as other changes that enabled eBay to be more easily used by thieves) were primarily effected while Margaret Cushing (Meg) Whitman, now the Republican Party nominee for governor of California, was eBay's President and CEO.

Presidential Prognostications

Monday, 15 June 2009

I am not at all sanguine about the oppositional up-rising in Iran. Although it is evident that Ahmadinejad's faction rigged the counting of the vote, I think that he would have won, by approximately the same margin, had the votes been honestly counted. I see the up-rising as that of a minority, and of a minority that is considerably less thuggish than the majority whom they oppose.

Meanwhile, I am fairly sure that, by the end of the calendar year, the attempt by our own President to reëngineer America will have failed, and that the changes that he will have been able to effect will, over-all, be viewed by most Americans as wrong-headed in one way or another.

In some future entry, I'll have more to say about my perceptions of his programme.

Other Statistical Analysis

Sunday, 14 June 2009

Meanwhile, Andrew Sullivan notes the The Results as They Came In for the Iranian Presidential election. Specifically, as the official figures were up-dated, they fell almost perfectly along a straight line. The fit has an R2 of .998, which is a virtual impossibility. So the official figures are a bald lie. That doesn't mean that Ahmadinejad wouldn't have won under a fair count, but it means that he chose to steal the election rather than to risk losing under a fair count.

Candidata and Candidate

Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Back when Barack Obama and John McCain had selected their respective running-mates for the Presidential race, a 'Net friend wrote

[…] it does seem that Obama picked the best person to help him govern, whereas McCain picked the best person to help him win.

which was certainly a plausible interpretation of the choice (so long as we tweak it to refer to the expectations of Obama and of McCain).

Now Obama has nominated an appointee to the Supreme Court who is unlikely to sway other judges in favor of left-wing opinion:

The Case Against Sotomayor by Jeffrey Rosen of the New Republic 04 May 2009

[…] Most are Democrats and all of them want President Obama to appoint a judicial star of the highest intellectual caliber who has the potential to change the direction of the court. Nearly all of them acknowledged that Sotomayor is a presumptive front-runner, but nearly none of them raved about her. They expressed questions about her temperament, her judicial craftsmanship, and most of all, her ability to provide an intellectual counterweight to the conservative justices, as well as a clear liberal alternative.

The most consistent concern was that Sotomayor, although an able lawyer, was not that smart and kind of a bully on the bench, as one former Second Circuit clerk for another judge put it. She has an inflated opinion of herself, and is domineering during oral arguments, but her questions aren't penetrating and don't get to the heart of the issue. (During one argument, an elderly judicial colleague is said to have leaned over and said, Will you please stop talking and let them talk?) […]

Sotomayor has infamously asserted

I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn’t lived that life.

Well, the logician in me wants to point out that the decisions of any wise person (Latina or otherwise) can be be expected to be better over-all than the decisions of a typical person (white and male or otherwise); wisdom simply isn't typical. So if Sotomayor hadn't implicitly inserted a second wise in front of white male, then she would have expressed something basically true but close-on to vacuous, and cluttered-up with inappropriate adjectives.

Unfortunately, she was arguing against the claim that a wise old man and wise old woman will reach the same conclusion in deciding cases, so she was arguing for a sort of sexism, at least a sexism conditional upon race.

In any case, the problem is that Sotomayor herself isn't wise. That leaves the (somewhat redundant) Latina woman part. That part wouldn't help her to reach better decisions or even to argue effectively for whatever judgments she reached, but it would help the Democrats in future elections and help Obama in particular.

(The Republicans are in poor position to complain about such a selection. When running for President in 1980, Ronald Reagan promised that his first nominee to the SCotUS would be a woman. Worse, the woman whom he nominated was Sandra Day O'Connor, whose judicial philosophy, such as it was, was baddumbmommism — an insistence on ending specific conflicts by imposing pragmatic compromise.)

Tyranny of the Plurality

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

There isn't a whole lot to be said about this decision.

The ruling declared that

It is not a proper function of this court to curtail that process; we are constitutionally bound to uphold it.

But, in fact, the process specified by the state constitution does not allow any-and-all amendments that can find support amongst a plurality of voters. The court chose to put democracy ahead both of the constitution and of personal freedom.

Another Grim Outcome

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

I was up for about 23 hours, went to bed, and slept, uh, for about three hours.

I decided to get on-line and see if there'd been a further reversal-of-fortune for Proposition 8, the California measure to outlaw same-sex marriage. Although in the past the electorate had voted to ban same-sex marriage, conventional wisdom, going into this election, was that the Proposition would fail by a clear margin. I believed this convention wisdom, and saw it as the one real bright spot of the election.

But as the numbers started to come-in, it began to seem that the Proposition would pass by about the margin by which it had been expected to fail.

Now, with 22587 of 25429 precincts reporting, the measure leads 4,843,531 to 4,519,010 — about 52% to 48%. There has been a little drift in the percentages since I had last checked, but nothing that suggests that there will be some marked difference in the relative shares reported amongst the later-reporting precincts. Basically, the remaining precincts would have to have voted about 64% against the Proposition for it to fail.

I had been planning to remove the Vote No bumpersticker from my note-book computer if the measure failed. I'm inclined to leave on for a while now, as a gesture of protest. But I'm concerned that it may just depress some of the people around me, so I'm going to conduct an informal poll amongst them.

I guess that, one way or another, the sticker has a short shelf-life. A little more than eight years ago, a Proposition 22, perhaps better known as the Knight Initiative and as the defense of marriage act, set out to achieve much the same ends as this latest Proposition 8. Now-a-days, No-on-Knight is quite meaningless to the vast majority of people, and No on 22 would be mysterious to an even larger group.

Exercising the Franchise

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

I decided to go to the district polling station before it opened to-day, in the hope of avoiding a line. My thinking was that, while I would be waiting for it to open, I would spend less time in line, for a net savings. In the event, there was already a significant line when I got there, but the line grew dramatically behind me. I might have reälized more savings had I got there five or ten minutes still sooner. On the other hand, there may be times later to-day when the line is much shorter (yet before the polls close).

As per my previous declarations, I did not vote in the Presidential election. I remain persuaded that none of the candidates was adequate to hold so much power. I am convinced that the next President is going to prove a very great fool or a very great knave or quite likely both, and that the next two or more years are just going to be a rolling disaster.

Leaning against the Gale

Monday, 27 October 2008
Media's Presidential Bias and Decline by Michael S. Malone at ABC News
Now, don't get me wrong. I'm not one of those people who think the media has been too hard on, say, Republican vice presidential nominee Gov. Sarah Palin, […].


No, what I object to (and I think most other Americans do as well) is the lack of equivalent hardball coverage of the other side — or worse, actively serving as attack dogs for the presidential ticket of Sens. Barack Obama, D-Ill., and Joe Biden, D-Del.


Picture yourself [as an editor] in your 50s in a job where you've spent 30 years working your way to the top, to the cockpit of power … only to discover that you're presiding over a dying industry. […]


With luck, this monolithic, single-party government will crush the alternative media via a revived fairness doctrine, re-invigorate unions by getting rid of secret votes, and just maybe be beholden to people like you in the traditional media for getting it there.

Hard Sell

Thursday, 25 September 2008

In the wake of a ruling by the Supreme Court of the State of California that required the state to recognize and effect same-sex marriage, there is a measure, Proposition 8, on the ballot to amend the state constitution to halt recognition of further same-sex marriages. I oppose this measure, though (as I have stated various places) what I really want is for the state to get out of the marriage business altogether, and to treat marriages simply as private contracts. (I think that participants should see marriage as far more, but that's not the business of the state.)

This after-noon, I stopped at the San Diego headquarters of Vote No on Prop 8 to buy a couple of bumper-stickers, one to actually slap on a bumper, and one to put on the case of my note-book computer.

The guy who greeted me there was a fool. Instead of just selling me a couple of bumper-stickers, he tried very aggressively to get me to make a substantial donation, starting with the idea that I should give them the equivalent of a dollar an day for a year, by donatiing $365. There isn't a fr__king year left until the election; there's about 40 days. Had he begun by suggesting a $40 donation, well, I might have gone along with that; as it was, he had my back up, and I said no to the other sums that he suggested. I gave them $5 and they gave me the two bumper-stickers that I'd sought. In addition to the bumper-stickers, I left with considerable annoyance.

Another irksome thing, not the fault of Vote No on Prop 8, was that I had to fill-out a d_mn'd form, because I'd made a political contribution, however small. It was a gross violation of my rights as acknowledged by the First and Fourteenth Amendments, but if I didn't fill-out that form, and truthfully, then the money could be confiscated by the state.

Post-War Presidential Elections

Tuesday, 5 August 2008
1980ReaganFaux-Cowboy Midwesterner-CalifornianCarterYeehaw
1984ReaganFaux-Cowboy Midwesterner-CalifornianMondaleYankee-Midwesterner
1988Bush, GHWWannabe-Cowboy-Yeehaw YankeeDukakisYankee
1992ClintonYeehawBush, GHWWannabe-Cowboy-Yeehaw Yankee
2000Bush, GWCowboy-YeehawGoreFaux-Yankee Yeehaw
2004Bush, GWCowboy-YeehawKerryYankee

McCain has chosen to be a Cowboy, and Obama a Yankee-Midwesterner, though neither of them seems to have been raised thus. Nancy Pelosi is pressing Obama to accept a Cowboy-Yeehaw as running-mate.