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November 2004

From Lincoln to Bush

One of the best analysis I have seen of US election results is by Swami Aiyar: From Lincoln to Bush
Not only do they control both Houses and the White House, the Republicans also hold 28 state governorships against 21 for the Democrats. Truly, the Republicans have displaced the Democrats as the natural party of rule. Why? The main reasons are:

Trade unions, traditional Democratic supporters, have collapsed in numbers and clout as the US has changed from an industrial to a service economy.

The population is shifting steadily from the north-east (traditionally Democratic) to the sun-belt of the South (Republican, with the exception of California). No less than 27 electoral votes have shifted to the sun-belt since 1988. Many of those moving South are white retirees, who typically vote Republican.

Hispanics from central America are helping swell the population of the South, and were once regarded as potential Democrats. But they are also traditional Catholics, who appreciate the Republican stress on Christian, anti-abortion and family values.

Civil rights has traditionally been a vote-winner for Democrats, as they championed various minorities. But the latest civil rights issue, championing gay marriage, has proved a serious vote-loser, especially among Catholic Hispanics.

The politics of envy has changed. US voters like tax cuts even if they benefit the rich disproportionately. Inequalities grew under Reagan and Bush, yet both were re-elected. Americans are aspirational, not egalitarian.

However, the biggest overarching reason of all may be that Southerners have finally overcome their Civil War hangover, and stopped voting against Abraham Lincoln. The white South has always been conservative. But for a century after the Civil War (1861-65), the South saw itself as battling the hated Republican hordes of Lincoln. And so, the white South voted for Democrats, notwithstanding its right-wing (and racist) values.

Freedom in Action

BuzzMachine... by Jeff Jarvis: "The shocking truth about the FCC: Censorship by the tyranny of the few

: With not much original reporting, I discovered that the latest big fine by the FCC against a TV network -- a record $1.2 million against Fox for its 'sexually suggestive' Married by America -- was brought about by a mere three people who actually composed letters of complaint. Yes, just three people."

He made this discovery by filing a Freedom of Information Act request.

Appeasement Watch: Index on Censorship watch justifies Theo van Gogh's murder

Harry's Place points to this outrageous editorial from Index on Censorship.
Blaming the victim for the crime, Index on Censorship Associate Editor Rohan Jayasekera writes -- that Van Gogh was a "free speech fundamentalist on a martyrdom operation" and calls on us to "applaud Theo van Gogh's death as the marvellous piece of theatre itwas."

The crescendo of this Index on Censorship editorial comment says: "Van Gogh's juvenile shock-horror art finally led him to build an exploitative working relationship with Somalia-born Dutch MP Ayann Hirsi Ali, whose terrible personal experience of abuse has driven her to a traumatizing loss of her Muslim faith.

"Together they made a furiously provocative film that featured actresses portraying battered Muslim women, naked under transparent Islamic-style shawls, their bodies marked with texts from the Koran that supposedly justify their repression. Van Gogh then roared his Muslim critics into silence with obscenities. An abuse of his right to free speech, it added injury to insult by effectively censorsing their moderate views as well."

Can it really get uglier than this?

On the other hand, there has been a deafening silence from normally loud "defenders" of free-speech.

Why don't HMOs invest in drug research?

Cost of drug development and health insurance premiums are both rising rapidly. Drug development requires huge upfront R&D costs while health insurance involves collecting premiums before claims are filed and have to be settled. What if HMOs invest in drug research and development?

It can benefit both patients and HMOs. Since, premiums will cover the R&D portion of cost of drugs, patients covered under the HMO schemes will need to pay only administrative costs and the manufacturing costs, which are considerably less.

This scheme will work even if HMOs don't develop and manufacture the drugs directly. HMOs can always purchase equity in pharmaceutical companies. The profit (dividends) from the investment can help HMOs to settle the claims.

When customers choose various insurance plans and coverages for the diseases they provide tremendous amount of information about relative importance of cure of various diseases. While calculating premiums HMOs also generate and utilize information about relative probabilities of occurence of various diseases. Thus they can use this information to direct the investment towards cure of appropriate diseases. If they are successful they make profit and in turn lower the costs to their customers.

Given this nice synergy, it always puzzles me why HMOs (and other health insurance companies) don't invest in drug research!

Update: Marginal Revolution has a good post on health insurance.

Worried that all jobs will be outsourced to cheaper destination?

Many people complain that all US jobs will be outsourced to cheaper destinations, such as India. Jane Galt explains :
Second, in the immortal words of the late economist Herb Stein, "If something can't go on forever, it will stop." If we really don't make anything worth buying in America, why will the Indians keep sending us software programmes and taking our support calls? Dollars aren't pretty enough to become collector's items; we have to make something Indians can buy with them, or they'll stop working for them, and we can have all our old jobs back. Trendline extrapolation is a silly business in almost any economic situation, but never more so than where trade is concerned.

Terrorism and lack of freedom

A study done by Prof. Abadie says there is no link between poverty and terrorism. He however found a strong link between political freedom and terrorism. The high level of terrorism was especially visible in countries with medium level of political freedom. On the other hand:
Like those with much political freedom, nations at the other extreme - with tightly controlled autocratic governments - also experienced low levels of terrorism.
"When you go from an autocratic regime and make the transition to democracy, you may expect a temporary increase in terrorism," Abadie said.

Bharateeya Blog Mela

Let the fun begin, this week's Bharateeya Blog Mela (भारतीय चिट्ठा मेला) is here!

This is my first experience hosting an event of this kind. As I said earlier, Blog Mela helped me introduced me to a lot of Indian blogs including many Hindi ones. It is really nice to see so many Hindi blogs out there though I find them a bit difficult to read.

Except for a personal post that I didn't find relevant I have selected all those that were nominated along with few of my own choices. Enjoy the show!

Gopi talks about importance of promoting the sense of Indianness and good work done by National Integration films! Who can forget "मीले सूर मेरा तुुमहारा"?

In response to Madhu's screed on Indian-ness, Prasenjeet Dutta feels that "Nationalism – first and foremost – is shared economic and strategic interest. Everything else, cultural symbolism included, is window dressing."

Once I asked some experts on an Indian forum about motivation of terrorists like Osama Bin Laden but never got anything other than few snide remarks. Well, web and especially blogs are a great thing! Based on interview with al Qaeda expert Saad al-Faqih in The Jamestown Foundation, Prasenjeet believes Al Qaida's motive is not to win but to be stomped upon, again and again.

What with The Times going the tabloid way, London commuters with "taste" are running out of newspapers to hide behind in the Tube.

Years after refusing to follow the beaten path, Pleomorphous laments that he created his own prison.

A tasteless and vulgar remix of famous old song on TV prompts Jitendra Chaudhary to wonder, क्या देह ही है सब कुछ?

Atul Arora contrasts practice of democracy in India and US in the light of just concluded US elections. Lots of pictures too! I was quite impressed when I heard (on radio) John Kerry addressing his supporters as he conceded the election to George Bush. He was interrupted many times by the thunderous applause by the supporters. In India by contrast, supporters vanish moment election results go against their party or their leader.

Varnam takes on Arundhati Roy's explanation of why she doesn't condemn militants! Now I know why militants don't like democracy!

Is China manipulating US? Evariste feels so:It may be that China is manipulating us very skillfully, by having Pakistan escalate its demands so that we'll continue to appease them and anger our more natural ally, India-while simultaneously buttering India up and patching over old tensions.

Re-trial or Mis-trial? The Opti Mystic weighs on some stunning developments in the Best Bakery case.

Tyler Cowen at Marginal Revolution discusses Indian democracy and rationality of Indian voters.

Swaminathan Aiyar's articles are always a good read. If you are still not convinced of failure of Nehruvian socialism, read Putting Nehru, Tata to shame.

That's all from me. The next week's Blog Mela is over at The Opti Mystic.

Blog Mela

The mela should be up by tomorrow morning (US PST). So please get in your nominations as soon as you can. See the post below for the rules.

P.S. Right now, blogger is having intermittent problems. Must be because of huge traffic on election related blogs.