Thursday, June 08, 2006

Ben Fong-Torres gets the Howard Stern treatment: "Back in San Francisco, I heard from people who'd caught the show. Stern and Quivers, they said, had treated me with respect. Is that what you call it? But it's true. Through all the grilling and joking, they'd maintained an all-in-fun tone. In exchange, I'd had my 10 minutes of (almost) fame."
Ben Fong-Torres gets the Howard Stern treatment: "Back in San Francisco, I heard from people who'd caught the show. Stern and Quivers, they said, had treated me with respect. Is that what you call it? But it's true. Through all the grilling and joking, they'd maintained an all-in-fun tone. In exchange, I'd had my 10 minutes of (almost) fame."
Ben Fong-Torres gets the Howard Stern treatment: "Back in San Francisco, I heard from people who'd caught the show. Stern and Quivers, they said, had treated me with respect. Is that what you call it? But it's true. Through all the grilling and joking, they'd maintained an all-in-fun tone. In exchange, I'd had my 10 minutes of (almost) fame."
The "Jersey Girls" respond to Ann Coulter:

"We have been slandered. Contrary to Ms. Coulter's statements, there was no joy in watching men that we loved burn alive. There was no happiness in telling our children that their fathers were never coming home again. We adored these men and miss them every day," the women said.

Extremism, or zealotry, whether on the left or the right is equally bad. Coulter, who has made a name for herself largely on the fierceness of her invective and her looks (would she have gotten on the cover of Time had she NOT been an attractive, leggy blonde?) exemplifies the reprehensible natrue of the right's approach. While The Anchoress condemns Coulter's statement, her phraseology on this topic is telling:

To me she is embodying everything I currently cannot abide in the “conservative movement,” the arrogant presumption of absolute moral certitude (which is ugly, ugly, ugly coming from the left, so honey, it’s not pretty when it’s from the right, either), combined with the sense of over-confidence which is sending so many on the right into a self-destructive Roy Moore/Tom Tancredo plunge off a cliff.

Thus, if it comes from the left, its "ugly, ugly, ugly," but whenit comes from the right, it's mere'l "not pretty." I hope that's just her turn of phrase, but I believe that right wingers see the distinction in just that way.

Shredder Trucks? Shredder Trucks??

Well, before we jump to conclusions, maybe it's all an innocent mistake. After all:

With identity theft on the increase, State Farm wants to keep customer information out of the wrong hands. State Farm spokesman Richard Ludke said the company works to maintain the confidentiality and security of private records.

"It would be of course cost-prohibitive to maintain every document, obviously, and so we've implemented this program to orderly dispose of the records we don't need.

"But we do issue litigation hold orders so that we make sure we retain the records that may be needed for specific litigation."

On the other hand:

at least one shredded document was an engineering report that went missing after Attorney General Jim Hood subpoenaed such State Farm reports for a grand jury investigation. Scruggs said he also had subpoenaed that report and others for his lawsuit against State Farm.

But wait:

The employee was told that State Farm was transferring paper records to computer images, then shredding the original paper.

Well, that's fine, except:

while computer imagining works fine for photographs, the quality at the State Farm office is so poor with printed documents that they are almost impossible to read.

How do we know this? A State Farm employee explains:

The employee first learned while working on a policyholder file that an original engineering report had been destroyed. The copy scanned to images could not be located, either.

"I can tell you I was in a file that was supposed to have an engineer report. No one could find the engineer report and the person I was working with was told it had been shredded because they'd decided to scan it into images.

No problem! Just get another copy from the engineering firm, right? Except:

The employee's co-worker was about to call the engineering firm for another copy, but a claims manager said not to. Instead, an employee authorized to talk to the engineering firm called and requested another copy of the report.

The firm sent over another report, the employee said, adding, "but of course at that point you don't know if it's the one we originally got or not."

I feel like I'm watching a tennis match. These charges are serious, though, and if it's demonstrated to the court's satisfaction that State Farm is destroying evidence, the court ought to be imposing severe sanctions based on spoliation of evidence. Moreover, if State Farm destroyed subpoenaed evidence [i.e., a court order to produce], then it ought to be held in contempt of court.

By the way, if a plaintiff was caught doing what State Farm is alleged to have done here, then you can bet the defendant insurance company would be pushing hard for sanctions, including dismissal of the plaintiff's case.

By the Numbers:

$44.8 Billion: Record profit of insurance companies in 2005

18.7%: Increase in insurance industry profits over 2004

$427 billion: Total insurance industry surplus

So I guess I don't feel too much sympathy for the insurance industry in its efforts to deny liability for hurricane losses in 2005

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

No, Glenn is not the antichrist. And no, that's not a comb-over, either.

Nice fake smile, though....
God is the chairman of the Texas Republican Party.

Well, I guess I really am on the wrong side.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Glenn says that Democratic pollster Mark Blumenthal fisks the Kennedy article. Well, not precisely, as Blumenthal states at the outset of his post:

First, despite its weaknesses, the Kennedy article raises some important and troubling questions about real problems in Ohio in 2004. As Ohio State University Law Professor Dan Tokaji puts it, the article is "useful in exposing how shoddy election administration practices can result in lost votes, and how some recently enacted laws will make things worse rather than better." The summary of problems deserving attention includes long lines in minority precincts, efforts of the Republican Party to selectively challenge (or "cage") new registrants and the many examples of pure incompetence by local election officials. And then there is partisanship of Republican Secretary of State Ken Blackwell, now his party's nominee for governor. Blackwell will need to answer to Ohio voters for, as's Farhad Manjoo writes, having "used his powers for partisan gain," issuing "a series of arbitrary and capricious voting and registration rules that could well have disenfranchised many people in the state" (but interests disclosed: I am a Democratic pollster with clients in Ohio)

Second, while I have devoted 68 posts and tens of thousands of words to the exit poll controversy since Election Day 2004, I have never argued that the exit polls can be used to rule out or disprove the possibility that vote fraud may have occurred in Ohio or anywhere else during in 2004.

Blumenthal's overall point: the discrepancy between the exit polls and the eventual announced vote tabulations does not affirmatively demonstrate electoral fraud. As indicated by his disclaimer as quoted above, he doesn't rule it out, either. Blumenthal clearly thinks Kennedy and Rolling Stone are making too much of the exit poll issue, though.

And while maybe I'm dense [maybe?], I don't see how this is an embarassment for RFK and Rolling Stone, any more than the polemics of, say, an Ann Coulter or Mark Levin are for the radical right. Well, OK, maybe it is embarassing, considering those two....

Remember the wildly inaccurate exit polls in the 2004 presidential election? In a documented and sourced piece from Rolling Stone, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. argues persuasively that the exit polls were not inaccurate:

In January, a team of mathematicians from the National Election Data Archive, a nonpartisan watchdog group, compared the state's exit polls against the certified vote count in each of the forty-nine precincts polled by Edison/Mitofsky. In twenty-two of those precincts -- nearly half of those polled -- they discovered results that differed widely from the official tally. Once again -- against all odds -- the widespread discrepancies were stacked massively in Bush's favor: In only two of the suspect twenty-two precincts did the disparity benefit Kerry. The wildest discrepancy came from the precinct Mitofsky numbered "27," in order to protect the anonymity of those surveyed. According to the exit poll, Kerry should have received sixty-seven percent of the vote in this precinct. Yet the certified tally gave him only thirty-eight percent. The statistical odds against such a variance are just shy of one in 3 billion.

Such results, according to the archive, provide "virtually irrefutable evidence of vote miscount." The discrepancies, the experts add, "are consistent with the hypothesis that Kerry would have won Ohio's electoral votes if Ohio's official vote counts had accurately reflected voter intent." According to Ron Baiman, vice president of the archive and a public policy analyst at Loyola University in Chicago, "No rigorous statistical explanation" can explain the "completely nonrandom" disparities that almost uniformly benefited Bush. The final results, he adds, are "completely consistent with election fraud -- specifically vote shifting."

Read the whole article. Considering the likely shenanigans in Florida in 2000 -- whose election mechanism also was controlled by Republicans -- I tend to be convinced. Remember, the reason the Nixon Administration is justifiably castigated is not because their people broke into Democratic headquarters, it was the overall pattern of subverting the electoral process. If it is true that the Republicans threw the election to Bush -- a conclusion that is statistically inescapable, according to this article -- then the subversion of everything this country is about is even more massive and pernicious. I fear for the electorate that fails to cry "foul" and bring the wrongdoers to justice.

Update on MCE 2005 and the mystical [ha!] Adaptec dual TV tuner:

The latest info I have had -- relative to my problems in connecting a set top box [STB] to one input and direct cable through a VCR to the second input is that it simply can't be done. Those who know -- supposedly -- say that I must have the same input source for each input. Thus, I can have two STBs, or two direct cable inputs, but I cannot mix and match the two. Well, they're wrong!

Here's what I did last night. I connected the STB to input 1 and direct cable through a VCR to input 2. I then went through the MCE tuner setup manually. As before, the STB on input 1 set up properly -- MCE saw the picture, the remote set up for my particular STB, etc. The MCE setup then automatically went to the same setup procedure for input 2. It saw the picture, and I just pretended that it set up a remote properly. Setup ended normally, and I was left seeing input 2 [direct cable through VCR].

Using the electronic programming guid [EPG], I started recording what I was seeing on input 2 [direct cable/VCR]. Once the record started, I went to the EPG again, and chose another channel. Voila! The STB changed to that selected channel, and I could see/record from input 1 [STB]. While one or both inputs are recording, I can toggle between the two by going to the guide and selecting those channels. If both inputs are recording and I try to select a third channel, MCE gives me a pop-up asking if I want to terminate the record on one or the other channels. It's a little kluge-y, but at least (1) I can go back and forth between the tuners, (2) I can record from the VCR using the manual record, and (3) if I want to record from input 2 [direct cable/VCR], then all I have to do is manually set the VCR channel at the same time I set the record with the EPG. I can live with this.

Next problem: MCE saves the recordings in a proprietary format called DVR-MS. If I want to edit the recording after the fact -- to remove commercials or to add an alternate audio track -- what's the best, if any, software to convert from DVR-MS format to a recognizable format like MPEG 2? Any ideas out there?