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Mayor Mike

Hey, look at that. Mayor Mike Bloomberg has renounced the Republican party. He also appears to be setting himself up for a presidential run, given that he made the announcement while in California, and apparently did so in a speech decrying "the gridlock in Washington." Given that there have not, to my knowledge, been many beefs of late between the city government and the feds, this seems like a message aimed principally at those outside of New York City.

He's now declared himself an independent, which is frankly what he's been all along. For those unaware of New York's recent political history, Bloomberg's a billionaire media mogul who was a Democrat in his personal politics. In 2001 he became a Republican to run for mayor of New York, his first elected office, because the NYC Democratiic Party machine makes it very difficult to win the Democratic nomination if you haven't spent your life working your way up the ladder. Bloomberg won in 2001 after receiving Giulianni's endorsement following September 11. Since then he's governed New York as a moderate-to-liberal politician. He's won a lot of support in the non-white communities that Giulianni had alienated. He's balanced the city's budget, to the point where the city had a large surpluss this year that led to a property tax cut and some modest spending increases. Crime's been down despite cuts to the police budget. And he pushed through the big smoking ban which, if nothing else, was certainly a courageous move. He won re-election in 2005 by a pretty overwhelming margin.

I have to say I like Mayor Mike. He seems like a firm and effective administrator, and he's weathered city politics very well. I would vote for him for president, if I thought he had any chance of winning. Granted, I know nothing of his planned policies, but I have a great deal of faith in the man as being more than qualified for the job.

Also, if nothing else, I think it'd be fun to see a three-way presidential race between Bloomberg, Giuliani and Clinton: The Mayor of New York City, the former Mayor of New York City, and the Senator from the State of New York. Take that, rest of America!


Kristen's first press conference reminds me: the other day when I was scounting out Justice for my job I saw the SDNY's US Attorney outside 86 Chambers Street giving a small press conference. He had a little podium set up on the sidewalk and about a dozen newspeople in front of him, intently holding up microphones and listening to him speak.

Flanking him were, to his left, a man in a t-shirt that read "Community Action Now!" and, to his right, a monk in full-on brown hooded cloak.

I haven't looked into what that press conference was about; whatever it was can't possibly compete with the fevered scenarios I have imagined for it.

It also, I think, sounds like the set-up for some sort of joke. "A community activist, a monk, and a US Attorney walk into a press conference..."

In Other News...

My Blood Boils, in Theory

Via Joystiq, we sort of learn that it may be possible that Sony slaughtered a goat as part of a promotional event for their new greek mythology-based platformer, God of War II. To be more specific, at a press event held at the Parthenon in Greece they slaughtered a goat by cutting its throat, leaving the head to dangle by a thread, then sliced open its stomach and had actors and guests feat on the offal within. The party also allegedly featured topless women serving guests by feeding them peeled grapes.

First let me say: Disgusting! Barbaric! I had been considering buying God of War II, but if this is story is true I can promise you I will never play it. Moreover, I have heretofore maintained general neutrality in the Sony vs. Microsoft portion of the console war (I love Nintendo, but have been open to the concept of buying a second console once prices come down a bit). If this story is accurate, it pushes me towards buying an XBox 360 rather than a Playstation 3, when the time is right.

But I'm not really sure the story is accurate. On the one hand, the story seems over-the-top. Topless women I can believe; that's par for the course in video game marketing. But slaughtering a goat? Eating the offal from its stomach? Really? On the other hand, the article at least paints a plausible picture for how it could happen: Sony turned regional marketing for the game over to an independent Greek company, which took things out of hand. Said Greek company may have incorrect ideas about what sort of images it is appropriate to associate with a multinational electronics conglomerate. The story then got reported by another outsourced Sony project, Official UK Playstation Magazine, which is ostensibly the source for the Daily Mail's article.

But here's the thing: If this really happened, it was the world's quietest press event. This event supposedly happened a month ago, yet we're only hearing about it now? What's more, and this is what I consider the most suspicious, there are absolutely no accounts on the internet about this event other than the Daily Mail article and articles that link to the Daily Mail as a source. The Mail article, in turn, appears to be based entirely on a phantom issue of Official UK Playstation Magazine which, according to the article, was recalled before it hit news stands. Now, allegedly, issues of the magazine have already been mailed to subscribers, so maybe confirmation will start to arrive in people's mailboxes over the next few days.

Still, suspicious! If this were a press event, you'd expect for a few press accounts to exist, or even a press release. Instead, the first the world learned of it was in a second-hand account of a photo spread from the news pages of a magazine that hasn't been distributed to the public yet.

It is possible, though, that all of the existing press accounts are in Greek, which would explain their not showing up on google searches. Perhaps news of the event managed to stay in Greece until Official UK Playstation Magazine reported on it for the first time in the English language. I suppose it's possible. I'm less sure that it's likely.

At the same time, the Daily Mail seems to really be sticking its neck out if this is a fake story. The Daily Mail may be a tabloid, and thus prone to sensationalism, but there are a lot of very specific claims made about Sony's behavior that would expose them to Britain's harsh libel laws. Moreover, the photo included at least looks like a Playstation Magazine-style layout. I'm particularly swayed by the inclusion of the Playstation logo in the corner; if the Daily Mail has created a mock-up of an OPM photo spread, including the actual Playstation logo is an open invitation to Sony to sue them for however much its heart desires.

The fact that we haven't heard anything official from Sony yet other than what's in the Mail article makes me very skeptical. I would say this story is slightly more likely to be false than true. Nonetheless, I am conditionally outraged.

UPDATE: Goat sacrifice confirmed. According to Sony, the party did happen, and there was a dead goat involved. However, the goat was slaughtered beforehand, not as part of the festivities, nobody actually feasted on the goat's offal, or entrails, or anything actually from the goat. Rather, they were served a meat soup that they referred to as offal, sorta like that game at Halloween parties where they pass the peeled grapes around and pretend they're eyeballs. The goat was apparently returned to the butcher from whence it came after the party.

So: Dead goat, yes. Slaughtered on-site, no. Offal, no. Topless serving women, yes. I still fundamentally object to the use of a slaughtered goat as a centerpiece for a PR event, but other than the apparent blood and gore involved I suppose it's not fundamentally different than a suckling pig. I also object to the topless women. I still plan on not buying God of War II as a result of this, but I may hold off on universal Sony condemnation. Your mileage may vary, though.


Kurt Vonnegut has died. I've only ever read one book by him, The Sirens of Titan, but I enjoyed it and have meant to read more. The world has lost a kind and interesting person today.

Urge to Post... Rising...

This article has created a minor ripple in the feminist blogosphere. I'm a little too tired and have too much studying to do to write a long post about it, but I'd be interested in what people think of it. I'm also interested in people's reaction to the reaction, examples of which can be found here (at Salon; must watch ad to read), here, and here.

I Am Off My Sleep Schedule

Staying up late on election night has fowled up my sleep schedule. This left me with several hours last night/this morning when I couldn't get to sleep. This gave me the opportunity to answer a question that has surely been burning in everyone's brain since the results of the election became known: What will happen in the incredibly unlikely event that there is an exact tie in the electoral vote on election night, 2008, and simultaneously absolutely no seats in either house of congress changes parties that night?

First, an overview of hour Our Big Dumb Electoral System handles ties. In the event that no candidate receives an absolute majority of votes in the electoral college (Possible if a third party actually wins electoral votes, and also possible if the two major-party candidates split the elecoral college vote down the middle, getting 269 votes each) the decision of who will be president is thrown to Congress. But it's thrown to Congress in a really goofy way.

We first throw out the entire vote by the people as a whole; that whole election we just had doesn't count. That's why, in 1824, John Q. Adams, a member of the House of Representative, became President by a vote of his House colleagues, despite having come in well behind Andrew Jackson in both the popular and the electoral vote. It's like we're having a whole new presidential election, where the only people allowed to vote are Congresspersons.

But the goofiness doesn't end there. It's not a strict one-congressperson, one-vote election. It's an Electoral College style vote: We take a vote of all the congresspersons from a given state, then whichever candidate gets the majority wins that state's whole vote. And, as another concession to our founders's anti-democratic impulses, we have a Senate-style Wyoming-is-just-as-important-as-California equalizing system: Every state gets exactly 1 vote. Moreover, in order to win a candidate must receive an absolute majority of states. If no candidate receives (with the current number of states) 26 states, they hold another vote, and another, and another, until someone does have a majority.

The fun doesn't stop there! The President is voted on by the House, the Vice President by the Senate, so a split ticket is highly possible. Moreover, if, within a state's delegation, the votes for the two candidates are exactly even the state is considered deadlocked and abstains. But that doesn't reduce the number of states the candidate needs to win; you need 26 regardless of how many states deadlock. Deadlock wouldn't be too common in the House, but it'd happen quite a bit in the Senate, making VP selection rather thorny.

So: In the event of a tie, the President will be determined by the party that has the majority of House members in a majority of the states. The Vice President, in theory, will be determined by the party that has both senators in a majority of the states. As a practical matter, so many states will have split Senate delegations that the number of abstentions means neither party will have a majority, so the VP will be picked through massive Senate politicking.

So, what result from our current Congress? Let's find out!

Assuming straight party-line voting, the Democratic candidate would win the presidency, with support from the states of Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.

The Republican Candidate would get support from Alabama, Alaska, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, Virginia, and Wyoming.

The states of Arizona, Kansas, and Mississippi would be deadlocked. New Mexico, right now, could swing either way: It has three house seats, one is definitely Democratic, one is definitely Republican, and the third is currently close and being recounted, with the Republican enjoying a lead of a couple hundred votes.

So the Republican would get 20 states (21 if they get New Mexico), the Democrat 26 states (27 with New Mexico).

The Vice President would be quite goofy; there are 17 states with two Republican senators, 18 with two Democratic senators, and 15 with split delegations. So the Democrats would have a slight advantage in the struggle to convince people to vote for their candidate, but it could really go either way.

Conclusion: Our system is dumb. Also: This is another reason not to get too excited about third-party Presidential candidates. Barring a big reform of the system for handling less-than-majority electoral college votes, any candidate successful enough to win electoral votes massively increases the chance that Congress will pick the President.


Well, without wishing to jinx it, it rather looks like come January the United States will have its first female Speaker of the House and its first Mormon Senate Majority Leader.

The House is very important, as changes in House membership tend to be glacial. I'm much more interested in the Senate, however, as it's the body that acts on judicial nominations. There's a very large difference between a barely-Republican Senate and a barely-Democratic one, and hopefully it will mean a significant moderation in the candidates nominated.

Now all that remains is to wait on Montana and Virginia. I think that the coming recount battle in Virginia could offer a great deal of fun for left-leaners, if approached in the proper spirit. Now the proverbial shoe is on the other foot, as the Democratic candidate with a narrow lead in the first count prematurely declared himself the victor, and the Republican candidate is left to look like a petulant loser, whining about unfavorable results.

Also, George Allen is an idiot who can't get through a sentence without vomiting out a football metaphor. I guarantee that he will be on TV tomorrow blathering nonstop about how we're at fourth and inches and need to make the on-side kick after our quarterback sneak and then we're going into overtime to give some tight ends a pounding.

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