Hard News by Russell Brown

Emotional Maintenance

As part of my new programme of post-election emotional maintenance, I got irie last night, put on Deja Voodoo nice and loud and cleaned up the kitchen. And I got to thinking about how an economic split between the red and blue states might measure up: that is, which bloc generates the most economic activity, or brings in the most foreign exchange?

Do the entertainment, IT, media and science-based industries in the Democrat-voting zones outweigh the rust-belt heavy industries and big agriculture in the rest of the nation? Any economists - amateur or otherwise - care to take on this one? One rule: money from taxpayers, by way of subsidy or military industry, doesn't count.

The deepening divide between red and blue states seems to be on other people's minds too. This new North American map seems to have become a meme in the last 24 hours. Ben Gracewood gets kudos for being first to send the link.

David Friar sent an update from NYC:

The mood throughout New York City over the past two days has been sombre - even the cab drivers aren't honking with their usual impatience. It's incredibly downbeat - no-one can quite believe the result, let alone the decisiveness of it.

Elizabeth Hansen emailed from California:

Thank you for noting in your blog today that while most of this country failed to exercise their brains yesterday, there were a few bright spots. More information: Here in San Diego, we elected a pro-choice woman as Mayor via a write-in ballot and voted down a proposition to allow a large white cross to remain on a prominent section of public land. In addition, my State Senator is now an openly-gay woman. Also, on the state level, we passed a $3billion bond for stem cell research and we re-elected US Senator Barbara Boxer, an outspoken, pro-choice Democrat. In other words, California is a sanctuary for progressive, reality-based thinkers. I myself intend to avoid red states for the next four years.

But Catherine, from an MSN.com address, had a different view:

Not a Destiny Church anything but a sincere attempt to return to the Biblical model and the Ten Commandments. Perhaps after all there is at least a hiccup in Karl Marx"s prediction, "As socialism grows religion will disappear."

Actually, the problem in this case seems to be that as a certain sort of religion grows, people's rights disappear. Erstwhile conservative Andrew Sullivan was anxious as hell yesterday:

I've been trying to think of what to say about what appears to be the enormous success the Republicans had in using gay couples' rights to gain critical votes in key states. In eight more states now, gay couples have no relationship rights at all. Their legal ability to visit a spouse in hospital, to pass on property, to have legal protections for their children has been gutted. If you are a gay couple living in Alabama, you know one thing: your family has no standing under the law; and it can and will be violated by strangers. I'm not surprised by this. When you put a tiny and despised minority up for a popular vote, the minority usually loses. But it is deeply, deeply dispiriting nonetheless. A lot of gay people are devastated this morning, and terrified. We have seen, and not for the first time, how using fear of a minority can be so effective a tool in building a political movement. The single most important issue for Republican voters, according to exit polls, was not the war on terror or Iraq or the economy. It was "moral values." Karl Rove understood the American psyche better than I did. By demonizing gay couples, the Republicans were able to bring in whole swathes of new anti-gay believers into their party. With new senators Jim DeMint and Tom Coburn, two of the most anti-gay politicians in America, we can only brace ourselves for what is now coming.

DeMint, the new senator from South Carolina, is quite a piece of work: during the campaign he said he supported a ban on homosexuals teaching in public schools - and added "I would have given the same answer when asked if a single woman who was pregnant and living with her boyfriend should be hired to teach my third-grade children."

Sullivan, an Englishman, prescribes a new emphasis on federalism to avert culture-war, and he may well be right. Even so, there's still something a little creepy about law-abiding, tax-paying citizens losing basic rights when they cross state lines.

At which point, I should 'fess to a little geographic dissonance in yesterday's post. As a couple of readers have pointed out, the Pentagon isn't in Washington DC, but the state of Virginia, which did go to Bush. And David Cohen also noted that the regional split I quoted from the Washington Post's exit poll doesn't quite match the actual voting pattern (that is, Bush won more regions than it suggests). Stephen Day had another query on the poll:

I know it is only an exit poll, but the Washington Post says that Kerry won 54% of the female vote and 47% of the male vote. If we multiply these figures by the percentage of males and females that voted we get Kerry winning 50.8% of the popular vote and Bush winning 48.2% - roughly the opposite of the popular vote result as it is being called at present. But roughly the result that the major polls were calling before the election.

The same anomaly seems to exist for a number of other voting figure breakdowns.

So, either a significant number of people claimed to vote Kerry but actually voted Bush (A plausible scenario) or I need to go back and read some of those earlier articles on Diebold.

Ah yes. I've been trying to steer clear of all vote-stealing theories until there's actual proof of anything. But the electronic voting machines are still an accident waiting to happen (if Florida had been close enough to call for a recount, what exactly would a recount mean?) and there was a largely unreported rash of problems on election day. Black Box Voting has launched a Freedom of Information action with respect to electronic voting.

Computerworld's Sharon Machlis has a good story pointing out that we just don't know whether the electronic voting systems worked. From an IT point of view, it seems to me that the only sensible practice - in every election - is to have independent auditors dump everything off these boxes for potential forensic analysis, but I'm not holding my breath for that.

Joseph Cannon puts the electronic fraud argument, which revolves around discrepancies between exit polls and published totals. Other people are insisting that the final exit polls actually did wash up pretty close to reported votes. I have no opinion on this.

(But I do feel able to venture a view on Bulgegate. By any reasonable analysis of a multitude of still and moving images, the bulge under Bush's suit in the debates was not "bad tailoring" as the candidate and his people claimed. I don't know whether it was a transceiver, a defibrillator or a curiously-positioned iPod, but there was something there and no one seemed to want to ask about it, which I can't help but find annoying.)

Anton Pichler asked whether, amid all the talk about the mandate implicit in Bush having won more votes than any previous president, Kerry also exceeded the popular vote for any previous president in coming second. Any ideas?

Simon Bird said: "As a further point to your comment on Brash taking the Bush re-election as a vote for the centre(!?)-right, it was interesting, although completely logical, to see that The Economist (surely one of the better publications for centre-right journalism) actually endorsed Kerry."

Meanwhile, whoops-a-daisy, how about that deficit then? Looks like Congress's first job will be to raise the federal government's debt ceiling by $690 billion to $8.074 trillion to get the government through to next September, when the 2005 budget year ends.

And, finally, I'm pleased to say that we now have Bill Pearson's 1952 essay, Fretful Sleepers: A Sketch of New Zealand Behaviour and its Implications for the Artist posted in Great New Zealand Argument.

As far as I know it's been out of print since the mid-70s, but now it's online for all. You'll note that we have page turns every 3000 words - it was the easiest way to handle the 16,500-word length. We haven't quite nailed footnotes yet, so all of them appear, a little incongruously, at the bottom of every page. (Also, note the new "Archive" feature at the top right of all the blog pages. Thanks, CactusLab.) Thanks again to Karajoz Coffee Company for making this possible.

Please feel free to tell friends about Fretful Sleepers, link to it, etc. I'm aiming for that top Google ranking inside a week …

PS: Extremely funny post on potential Holmes successors on DogBitingMen. Although I must point out that me saying "you might be seeing a bit of me in the media over the next week or two" does not indicate anything other than that the going-to-the-media part of The Public Address Strategy has begun.