The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

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I expect I'll have a thing or two more to say about the election this week. Today, let me just highlight a couple of things I'm watching:

The election matters. Whether you believe that every person should stand or fall on his own, or instead that governments are formed to promote the general welfare, this election will be a referendum on your philosophy. I have a clear bias: I believe public governments do many things better than private concerns can possibly do—and some things that private concerns absolutely should not do. Police powers, for example, I believe absolutely must remain public powers. And yesterday's New York Times provides a stark example of what happens when people stop paying for the police:

The shrinking of Sacramento’s police force has been extreme; the department has lost more than 300 sworn officers and civilian staff members and more than 30 percent of its budget since 2008. But at a time when many cities are curtailing essential services like policing — the Los Angeles Police Department said last week that it could lay off 160 civilian employees by Jan. 1 — the cutbacks in this sprawling city of 472,000 offer a window on the potential consequences of such economizing measures, criminal justice experts say.

In 2011, [Sacramento Police] Chief [Rick] Braziel said, the cuts, in his opinion, went past the tipping point. While homicides have remained steady, shootings — a more reliable indicator of gun violence — are up 48 percent this year. Rapes, robberies, aggravated assaults, burglaries and vehicle thefts have also increased, though in smaller increments.

Complicating matters, the cutbacks have coincided with a flow of convicted offenders back into the city as California, heeding a Supreme Court ruling, has reduced its prison population. Once released, former inmates have less supervision — the county’s probation department also suffered cuts.

The right won't take defeat like grown-ups. For the past week or so, I've noticed right-wing pundits saying things that imply the president's re-election would somehow not be legitimate. James Fallows has a concrete example from the Fox propaganda machine:

Imagine going to vote for your presidential candidate and pushing the button on a touch-screen voting machine -- but the "X" marks his opponent instead.

That is what some voters in Nevada, North Carolina, Texas and Ohio have reported.

Fox News has received several complaints from voters who say they voted on touch-screen voting machines -- only when they tried to select Mitt Romney, the machine indicated they had chosen President Obama. The voters in question realized the error and were able to cast ballots for their actual choice.

"How can we be sure our votes are not being stolen electronically?" asked [one voter].

The irony, of course, is that there was evidence of inaccurate counts—towards McCain—on Diebold voting machines in 2008, which looked especially bad because Diebold's CEO had been an outspoken McCain supporter. And the actual incidents of actual voting malfeasance that we've seen this year have been perpetrated by Republican operatives. Which brings up my last point.

Authoritarians do not go quietly. The U.S. right wing has a deep authoritarian streak, a deepening attitude that ends justify means, and a justifiable, existential terror at the increasing diversity of the United States. They've spent the last 15 or more years building up a cocoon around themselves against the harsh reality of, well, reality. (And what happens in a cocoon? The caterpillar dissolves itself and emerges weeks later as a pretty but short-lived being whose only goals are to reproduce and die.)

As the Republicans' deepening insanity has become apparent to more and more voters, they've become even more unhinged. Remember, they invented modern dirty tricks under Nixon's CREEP. Their entire electoral and governance philosophy has become to win, not to govern. Mitt Romney can invent new stories like Scheherazade (and for similar reasons) because he truly doesn't care about what he's saying, only that he win.

Look, whether or not the President gets re-elected on Tuesday, the United States will continue in relative peace and prosperity for at least a couple of centuries more. A Romney win, I really believe, will amount to a rear-guard victory by a losing side. Almost nothing can prevent the U.S. from becoming more diverse and more tolerant over the next few decades, though the Republican Party, with even a little more power, can seriously sabotage us until they're finally expelled at the polls.

If you're a U.S. citizen, vote, if you haven't already. If you're not a U.S. citizen, then on behalf of the People of the United States, I apologize for the insanity. Sometime on Thursday morning we'll stop fretting about the 2012 election, and then you'll have at least a week off until we start the 2016 campaign.

Starting the oldest item on my to-do list

I mentioned a few weeks ago that I've had some difficulty moving the last remaining web application in the Inner Drive Technology Worldwide Data Center, Weather Now, into Microsoft Windows Azure. Actually, I have two principal difficulties: first, I need to re-write almost all of it, to end its dependency on a Database of Unusual Size; and second, I need the time to do this.

Right now, the databases hold about 2 Gb of geographic information and another 20 Gb of archival weather data. Since these databases run on my own hardware right now, I don't have to pay for them outside of the server's electricity costs. In Azure, that amount of database space costs more than $70 per month, well above the $25 or so my database server costs me.

I've finally figured out the architecture changes needed to get the geographic and weather information into cheaper (or free) repositories. Some of the strategy involves not storing the information at all, and some will use the orders-of-magnitude-less-expensive Azure table storage. (In Azure storage, 25 Gb costs $3 per month.)

Unfortunately for me, the data layer is about 80% of the application, including the automated processes that go out and get weather data. So, to solve this problem, I need a ground-up re-write.

The other problem: time. Last month, I worked 224 hours, which doesn't include commuting (24 hours), traveling (34 hours), or even walking Parker (14 hours). About my only downtime was during that 34 hours of traveling and while sitting in pubs in London and Cardiff.

I have to start doing this, though, because I'm spending way too much money running two servers that do very little. And I've been looking forward to it—it's not a chore, it's fun.

Not to mention, it means I get to start working on the oldest item on my to-do list, Case 46 ("Create new Gazetteer database design"), opened 30 August 2006, two days before I adopted Parker.

And so it begins.

Quote of the Day

From Krugman, on why the GOP hasn't seemed to get much for its billions in ad spending:

[W]hat if we’ve been misunderstanding Rove? We’ve been seeing him as a man dedicated to helping angry right-wing billionaires take over America. But maybe he’s best thought of instead as an entrepreneur in the business of selling his services to angry right-wing billionaires, who believe that he can help them take over America. It’s not the same thing.

Also, the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority has a map of subway outages that suggests just how bad things are for New York commuters.

I used to live in the dead zone of that map. And then I moved to Hoboken.

Bloomberg endorses Obama

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, an independent now but formerly a Republican, has endorsed the President for re-election, largely on the basis of their shared belief in anthropogenic climate change:

Our climate is changing. And while the increase in extreme weather we have experienced in New York City and around the world may or may not be the result of it, the risk that it might be -- given this week’s devastation -- should compel all elected leaders to take immediate action.

We need leadership from the White House -- and over the past four years, President Barack Obama has taken major steps to reduce our carbon consumption, including setting higher fuel-efficiency standards for cars and trucks. His administration also has adopted tighter controls on mercury emissions, which will help to close the dirtiest coal power plants (an effort I have supported through my philanthropy), which are estimated to kill 13,000 Americans a year.

Mitt Romney, too, has a history of tackling climate change. As governor of Massachusetts, he signed on to a regional cap- and-trade plan designed to reduce carbon emissions 10 percent below 1990 levels. ...

He couldn’t have been more right. But since then, he has reversed course, abandoning the very cap-and-trade program he once supported. This issue is too important. We need determined leadership at the national level to move the nation and the world forward.

Meanwhile, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced via Twitter that Lower Manhattan could have its power restored by tomorrow night.

Oh, and Mitt Romney suddenly believes in FEMA. Talk about going where the wind blows...