Relevant and even prescient commentary on news, politics and the economy.

Nigeria Letters Update

This time, I’m back to talking about fake “business opportunites” from Nigeria (e.g., here, I said “The really distubing thing about these emails is that they indicate that at least one person smart enough to turn on a computer, and also able to read, fell for this”), not fake uranium sales from Niger. Today’s Washington Post recounts the tale of just such a person, and it really is sad:

…Daniels, 67, who, as treasurer of Dupont Park Seventh-day Adventist Church in Southeast Washington, secretly invested and then lost $1.3 million of church money. Daniels put that money — along with hundreds of thousands of dollars of his own — into a get-rich-quick scam that law enforcement authorities refer to as the Nigerian advance fee scheme.

…Daniels is among hundreds, if not thousands, of people across the nation who lose money each year in Nigerian advance fee schemes, lured by a promise of a big payoff that never comes, according to the U.S. Secret Service. Authorities estimate that victims in the United States have lost at least $2 billion in the past 12 years.

…On April 11, 2000, Daniels met in Amsterdam with two Nigerian men involved in the scheme, prosecutors said. Three weeks later, he wired $98,750 to an Amsterdam bank — the first of more than 30 payments over 19 months, law enforcement officials said.

The Post story has a lot more detail. Thank to reader Tom for the heads up on this one.


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Texas Update

The Dallas Morning News (free account required) reports that the Texas Supreme Court has refused to order the Texas Senate Democrats to end their boycott. Score one victory for the separation of powers. It seems like this was pretty clear cut because, absent issues of constitutionality, the Judicial Branch has no business interfering in Legislative Branch business. On the other hand, every Texas SC judge is a Republican, including stymied Circuit Court nominee Priscilla Owens, who is presumably not particularly happy with Democrats in general. (There was no published opinion, and I can’t find any information on which if any court members were in favor of issuing an order forcing the Democrats to return).

Democrats also filed a lawsuit, this one in Federal court:

In their lawsuit against the state, Perry and Dewhurst, the Democrats claimed that GOP leaders violated the federal Voting Rights Act by dropping a traditional rule that requires two-thirds of the Senate to agree to debate a bill.

Democrats argue that the two-thirds rule is vital in protecting the representation of political and racial minority groups in the Senate. Without the rule, voting “practices and procedures” in Texas are changed, Democrats’ attorneys say…

“This single issue is a violation of the Voting Rights Act, silencing the voices of every minority member of the Texas Senate and forcing a redistricting bill through the Legislature against the interests of minority voters, against the will of every minority member of the Senate and those senators who represent minority districts,” said state Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, chairwoman of the Senate Democratic Caucus.

It probably is true that eliminating the 2/3 rule would reduce the power of minorities in the legislature. Yet while the Democrats might have a slight chance in a District Court in Laredo, I doubt that a victory would survive on appeal in the conservative 5th Circuit. Nor is the Ashcroft Justice Department particularly likely to support a lawsuit based on the Voting Rights Act.


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I’ve Been Busy…

…Partly due to the day job and partly due to all the Red/Blue posts. As a result, I’m now catching up on all my blog reading. Here are the highlights:

  • Sadly, No brings us the new Reservoir Dogs.
  • The Daily Howler readily demonstrates that Fred Barnes is a giant, comical, tool.
  • Rice Watch Day 20 (it’s been a while since the last update): Again via the Daily Howler, a link to a detailed letter from Henry Waxman to Condoleezza Rice. The letter outlines in great detail the contradictions in Rice’s various statements and politely requests explanations and clarification.
  • Digby notifies us that Ross Perot is still alive, and sounding rather shrill (in a Krugman sort of way) about the state of the economy and federal budget.
  • Adam in MA: Pangloss or Prophet? Adam writes:

    Let’s get something straight. There will be a Democratic president in the oval office in 2005. We are going to defeat President Bush next year.

  • Does this mean that we know who Horse is, and he’s Joe Conason? On a serious note, I’ve ordered my copy of Big Lies, have you? And how popular does Angry Bear have to get before I start getting advance copies (hint to Ivins and Franken)?
  • The California Recall is fun to watch, but I’ll eat Tucker Carlson’s unconsumed shoe if it affects the outcome in California in the 2004 Presidential race. California is going Democratic, no two ways about it. If Davis prevails, it’s a win for Democracy over Banana-Republicism. If a Republican wins the Governor’s Office, we can sit back and laugh as he either raises taxes, slashes spending so far that no Republican will win statewide office in California for decades, or sits back as California’s debt rating plummets (really, the only three choices when the state is $38b short). Because I don’t see this working out badly for Democrats in any way, I’m officially giving Arianna Huffington the highly sought Angry Bear Poetic Justice Endorsement.
  • I’ll take burgers and beer at Kevin’s place over the $500 (or for that matter, $50) BloggerCon.
  • Dwight Meredith points out that, in order for Bush’s claim on 4/24 about the job-creation effects of his tax cuts to be true, “the economy will now have to create 2,382,125 jobs in the last five months of the year. That works out to an average of 476,425 jobs per month.” I’ll happily eat Carlson’s other shoe if that happens.


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I know I said I was done, but then I thought it would be interesting to have all four maps (the vote; income levels; housing appreciation; and lights from space) in a single four-paneled page.


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Red and Blue Wrap Up

First, Sincere thanks to James Galbraith and The University of Texas Inequality Project (be sure to check it out) for all the maps and analysis.

Galbraith ran some more numbers, this time relating income levels to votes for Bush and Gore. The Theil Score is an index that give the highest scores to counties that both (1) have income farthest above the national average and (2) have larger populations. Such counties appear as dark red on Galbraith’s maps. Conversely, counties that have large populations but income well below the national average get negative Theil Scores (colored Blue in Galbraith’s maps). Counties that have either (a) very small populations or (b) income near the national average get Theil Scores near zero; these are the yellow and green regions on the map.

Here are Galbraith’s results connecting income and population to votes for Bush or Gore.

A. Of the counties with the top 100 Theil scores, Gore won 67.

B. Of the next 100, he won 39.

C. Of the next 500, he won only 43.

D. Of the next 800, he won only 118.

E. Of the bottom 1600, he won 356.

F. Of the bottom 100, he won 39.

[Keep reading Red and Blue Wrap Up…]

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Another Red-Blue Juxtaposition

Commenter Bear (no relation) points out that pictures from outer space also identify most of the Blue regions of the United States: areas that have light are overwhelmingly Blue (one could almost say that the enlightened regions of the country vote Blue). As with the income maps below, this only gives a subset of the Blue Regions because it fails to highlight the poor, rural, counties that also voted Gore in 2000.


The picture is from a super-cool clickable and zoomable real time map of the earth as seen from space, maintained by Fourmilab Switzerland.


UPDATE: Link to second picture fixed.

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Bloggered Update

Still no archives and I’ve been unable to publish for about the last 24 hours (I think that in the process of trying to fix the archives I messed more stuff up). Anyway, still no archives but posting seems to work now.


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Climate Change

You may recall that recently the White House altered a report on Global Warming, replacing a statement that temperatures have risen significantly in the last decades with a reference to a paper by two astronomers, Willie Soon and Sallie Baliunas. The Soon and Baliunas paper argues that

…These results offer strong evidence that the climate of the 20th century was not unusual, but fell within the range experienced during the past 1,000 years…The available scientific evidence does not support the claim that the climate of the 20th century was unusual when compared to the climate of the previous 900 years.

That paper, its methodology, and its conclusion have been widely criticized (see also here).

Now, in his weekly newsletter, physicist Bob Park gives us some important background on Soon and Baliunas:

To appreciate its [the S&B paper] significance, we need to go back to March of 1998. We [presumably, members of the American Physical Society] all got a petition card in the mail urging the government to reject the Kyoto accord (WN 13 Mar 98). The cover letter was signed by “Frederick Seitz, Past President, National Academy of Sciences.” Enclosed was what seemed to be a reprint of a journal article, in the style and font of Proceedings of the NAS. But it had not been published in PNAS, or anywhere else. The reprint was a fake. Two of the four authors of this non- article were Soon and Baliunas…The article claimed that the environmental effects of increased CO2 are all beneficial…It was a dark episode in the annals of scientific discourse.

Read the first part of Park’s newsletter for a little insight into how the current administration chooses among conflicting scientific–or purportedly scientific–reports.


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I was just about to write a post complimenting Google on how much more reliable Blogger has been lately. But now my archives are gone. Hopefully they’ll be back soon.


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Ask and Ye Shall Receive

Earlier, I wrote about some new Red/Blue posts by Atrios and Nate Newman. Atrios linked to a map highlighting the areas with the most rapid increases in housing values and points out that the areas with the most rapid increases over the last few decades, meaning they are the places people want to live, are all Blue (i.e., Gore) “decadent liberal socialist enclaves.” In turn, this led me to speculate that it would be hard to tell a map with Blue highlighting Gore Counties from a map using Blue to highlight the counties with the greatest gains in property values. I left the proof as an exercise for the reader.

Reader and Researcher James K. Galbraith, who wrote a book on income inequality and also heads The University of Texas Inequality Project, sent me a great map with counties color-coded by the extent to which their income is above or below the national average. His conclusion:

As a rough cut, Gore won the rich places and the poor places. Bush won the middle-income places and the empty places.

Take a look at the two maps together (click to enlarge):

Income Inequality by County
In Galbraith’s map, as he explains, “Red indicates the largest positive contribution–counties where the money is. Blue indicates the largest negative contributions: counties with significant populations and incomes well below average. Greens and yellows are counties with either insignificant populations or incomes near the average–[areas that contribute] little to inequality.”

The high income areas, Red in Galbraith’s map, are all Gore areas. But large swaths of the lowest income area, Blue in Galbraith’s map, also voted for Gore (e.g., the border areas in Southern Texas, Arizona, and New Mexico). This highlights the main point of Judis and Teixeira’s book, The Emerging Democratic Majority, that areas that (1) have a lot of people, (2) have a lot of money, or (3) are growing most rapidly, are all trending Democratic.

Back to my original hypothesis from the earlier post, you would be able to tell the vote map from the housing value appreciation map because Blue counties come in two varieties: (a) urban or (b) rural, non-white, and low income. The most rapid housing appreciation, on the other hand, is remarkably concentrated in urban areas.


P.S. Here’s the original file (pdf) that Galbraith sent me; this paper (see the appendix) explains the Income Inequality measure used to construct his map.

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