Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Logarithmic scale picture of how tall/far away things are

xkcd rocks.

Sarah Palin: can't discuss any case other than Roe v. Wade

The Politico's Jonathan Martin has this latest gob-smacking tidbit about the ignorance of McCain's VP nomination:
The Palin aide, after first noting how "infuriating" it was for CBS to purportedly leak word about the gaffe, revealed that it came in response to a question about Supreme Court decisions.

After noting Roe vs. Wade, Palin was apparently unable to discuss any major court cases.

There was no verbal fumbling with this particular question as there was with some others, the aide said, but rather silence.
We should have the footage soon. We'll see. Egad. I could come up with a few off the top of my head: the Kelo case on eminent domain, the Leadbetter case about when you can sue for pay discrimination, Hamdan about the rights of detainees, Bush vs. Gore. And those are just recent ones. If I get to dig in the history books, Marbury vs. Madison (judicial review, IIRC), Griswald vs. Connecticut (legalizing birth control), Brown vs Board of Education (segregation illegal). How did this woman get elected governor of anything? Aren't Alaskans embarrassed?

It's hard to concentrate on work...

...when financial markets are imploding.

I think the Democrats in congress should pass a better stabilization
package, and not bother working with Republicans. They've shown that
they won't hold up their end of the bargain.

If this results in a more sane bailout, that will be good.

[I sent this from my iPhone, so please excuse any excessive brevity or
typographical errors.]
--Zachary Drake

Monday, September 29, 2008

Their reality has lapped our satire, part (alot)

Well, if it hasn't lapped our satire, it's at least pulled even with it, and SNL takes advantage:

Some of the dialogue in that sketch used actual transcript material from Palin's infamous Couric interview.

Chemical irritant sprayed into Ohio Mosque

This is pretty sick:

Njie was one of several affected when a suspected chemical irritant was sprayed into the mosque at 26 Josie St., bringing Dayton police, fire and hazardous material personnel to the building at 9:48 p.m.

Someone "sprayed an irritant into the mosque," Dayton fire District Chief Vince Wiley said, noting that fire investigators believe it was a hand-held spray can.

According to fire dispatch communications, a child reported seeing two men with a white can spraying something into a window. That child was brought to the supervising firefighter at the scene.

(HT: Chris Rodda and Taz Man on DailyKos) I hope whoever did this gets caught and gets a lot of jail time. This kind of violence has no place in America (or the rest of the world, for that matter).

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Why vote for McCain-Palin?

Via Sam Loomis on DailyKos. They scary thing is, this sort of thinking is not a joke to some people.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Debate reaction

I thought it was pretty much a draw: of course I like Obama a lot better, but I thought McCain did a decent job of stating his positions. I don't like those positions, but I figured that folks who liked him before the debate would continue to do so. In a way, this is probably a loss for McCain, as he's behind and needed a major shake-up, which I didn't see. Also, if people were nervous about Obama's newness on the scene, I think they might be reassured by Obama's calm demeanor and ability to handle the issues.

Apparently, undecideds favored Obama a great deal. And CNN's poll says Obama won.

Sullivan has a roundup of reactions (an earlier one here). Many are similar to my own.

Mark Halperin at TIME gives Obama an A- and McCain a B-.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Prediction: McCain will dump Palin

I think he'll do it for the wrong reasons, but I think he'll do it. Why? For the same reason he picked her in the first place: because it will be a huge, dramatic gesture that will capture the news cycle. McCain's campaign lately has been one desperate move after another. He's flailing for some game-changing move that will shake things up enough to get him out of his current rut. Palin's abyssmally received interview performances and parade of lies and scandals have become a drag on the ticket. Of course, they will probably put forward a health or family reason.

I'm not sure how this would work, though: now that the conventions are over, what's the mechanism for replacing a VP nominee? And I bet many ballots have already been printed. But the fact that it'll cause confusion and difficulty will only make it a more attractive option
for McCain.

I'm enamored enough of my theory that I'm going to place a bet on intrade. But it's a bit tricky funding an account, so I haven't done it yet. It's a longshot, but it will be a small bet and if I'm right I'll have some great bragging rights. And if I'm wrong, Palin's presence will probably drag McCain down, which will more than compensate.

[I sent this from my iPhone, so please excuse any excessive brevity or
typographical errors.]
--Zachary Drake

Musical floppy disk drive

USB drives may be faster, more compact, more reliable, and have greater capacity, but they can't do this:

HT: Grishnash via email.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Photoshop of the day

Photo of Treasury Secretary Paulson and Federal Reserve Chair Bernanke
taken from Balloon Juice

from http://www.dailyshocker.com/, though that link seems broken at the moment

McCain/Palin campaign imploding

What a day. McCain "suspending his campaign" (what does that mean?), trying to postpose his debate, trying to move the vice presidential debate, getting ridiculed by Letterman, poll numbers doing poorly, Intrade numbers going against him (even though they might have been manipulated in McCain's favor); it doesn't end.

Can his campaign survive this? Who knows. Unless the debates change things in a major way (and they rarely do), he's in big, big trouble.

Go Obama!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

McCain wants a campaign "time out" to work on bailout

Hmm. I'm pretty skeptical of this request:
Tomorrow morning, I will suspend my campaign and return to Washington after speaking at the Clinton Global Initiative. I have spoken to Senator Obama and informed him of my decision and have asked him to join me.

I am calling on the President to convene a meeting with the leadership from both houses of Congress, including Senator Obama and myself. It is time for both parties to come together to solve this problem.

We must meet as Americans, not as Democrats or Republicans, and we must meet until this crisis is resolved. I am directing my campaign to work with the Obama campaign and the commission on presidential debates to delay Friday night's debate until we have taken action to address this crisis.

I don't suppose this has anything to do with the fact that McCain is sinking in the polls?

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Not just from Nigerians anymore

Too funny:
Dear American:

I need to ask you to support an urgent secret business relationship with a
transfer of funds of great magnitude.
I am Ministry of the Treasury of the Republic of America. My country has had
crisis that has caused the need for large transfer of funds of 800 billion
dollars US. If you would assist me in this transfer, it would be most
profitable to you.
I am working with Mr. Phil Gram, lobbyist for UBS, who will be my
replacement as Ministry of the Treasury in January. As a Senator, you may
know him as the leader of the American banking deregulation movement in the
1990s. This transactin is 100% safe.
This is a matter of great urgency. We need a blank check. We need the funds
as quickly as possible. We cannot directly transfer these funds in the names
of our close friends because we are constantly under surveillance. My family
lawyer advised me that I should look for a reliable and trustworthy person
who will act as a next of kin so the funds can be transferred.
Please reply with all of your bank account, IRA and college fund account
numbers and those of your children and grandchildren to
wallstreetbailout@treasury.gov so that we may transfer your commission for
this transaction. After I receive that information, I will respond with
detailed information about safeguards that will be used to protect the
funds.
Yours Faithfully Minister of Treasury Paulson

Rule of the day

If you're too big to fail, then you're too powerful not to be regulated.

Why my blog is awesome

If you enter any of the following search strings into Google's default search page, the first link that comes up is an Internal Monologue blog post:
  1. tofu beef substitute
  2. why mccain would make a bad president
  3. kristol bailout
  4. mcdonalds war rule
  5. cell phone guy sings
  6. Bush Bigger Villain than Satan
This is true as of this post; of course things may change. Of course, there are probably many other phrases. These are just ones that people have used recently. I'm particularly proud of #2 and #6. I'm rather surprised by #3. Why not link to the NY Times column itself first? There were numerous cool strings for which this blog shows up, but I felt I should only report the phrases for which I was #1.

The following strings also have Internal Monologue as the first hit, but that's because Google was fooled by the fact that although this blog is called Internal Monologue, it's not primarily about internal monologues. So I don't feel they really count:
  • monologue joss whedon
  • veteran day monologues
  • multiple personality disorder monologue
  • 24. Internal monologue
  • Multiple Personality Monolog
This information was discovered via my Sitemeter referral stats. I could probably guess other strings for which I'm #1. For example:
  • random harlot generation
  • nostril salsa
  • gen con adventure
All return this blog in the top position. But that's too easy.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Krugman and Kristol agree: bailout package bad

As Yglesias points out, it's not often that left-leaning economist Paul Krugman and Neocon right-winger William Kristol (whom I normally abhor) write columns that basically say the same thing: the proposed bailout in its current form is a bad idea.

Krugman:
But I’d urge Congress to pause for a minute, take a deep breath, and try to seriously rework the structure of the plan, making it a plan that addresses the real problem. Don’t let yourself be railroaded — if this plan goes through in anything like its current form, we’ll all be very sorry in the not-too-distant future.
Kristol:

But is the administration’s proposal the right way to do this? It would enable the Treasury, without Congressionally approved guidelines as to pricing or procedure, to purchase hundreds of billions of dollars of financial assets, and hire private firms to manage and sell them, presumably at their discretion There are no provisions for — or even promises of — disclosure, accountability or transparency. Surely Congress can at least ask some hard questions about such an open-ended commitment.

And I’ve been shocked by the number of (mostly conservative) experts I’ve spoken with who aren’t at all confident that the Bush administration has even the basics right — or who think that the plan, though it looks simple on paper, will prove to be a nightmare in practice.

This criticism is coming from both left and right, so I don't think it's motivated by partisan considerations. Nobody thinks giving Paulson a $700 billion blank check is a good idea. If he's so smart and capable, why are we in this mess?

Everyone also agrees that something huge does need to be done. But we deserve to get something for our money. Accountability should be the bare minimum. In return for buying crap assets, the government should at least get lots of equity and/or regulatory control. That way the taxpayer might get something in return for this massive outlay of cash. Just letting people off the hook for their bad decisions is deeply unfair.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Proposed bailout universally reviled

It seems like nobody likes the proposed bailout package. Giving the Bush administration $700 billion with no oversight or accountability is a colossally bad idea. This post by New Deal democrat on DailyKos has a good roundup of some of the negative reactions.

Too much power for the Secretary of the Treasury?

Larry Maddill on DailyKos:
So essentially the Treasury Secretary can buy any assets he wants on any terms he likes, he can hire anyone he wants to do it, and he can write any kind of regulation he wants. The Treasury Secretary is now essentially in charge of oversight of the Treasury Secretary, and Congress is abdicating once again its own oversight powers, only getting a report from the Treasury Secretary twice a year.

[...]

Then comes the excessively scary paragraph:

Decisions by the Secretary pursuant to the authority of this Act are non-reviewable and committed to agency discretion, and may not be reviewed by any court of law or any administrative agency.


Given that we're talking about the Bush administration here, I'm almost certain that this power will be abused. Yes, they may do the necessary work to prevent the economy from crashing. But I bet a lot of Bush cronies will just happen to get fantastically wealthy in the process.

This is why it is so important to have good government: there are times when governments genuinely need extraordinary powers to thwart a crisis. But that's the exact same power that time and time again, the Bush administration has demonstrated is incapable of wielding.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Happy birthday Quinn!

His actual birthday is tomorrow.

Quinn's 2nd birthday

Quinn examining the engine on the spaceship exhibit at Habitot.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Palin poses with copy of John Birch Society magazine

Um, dude, get some better reading material.
Photo from the New York Times

Ben Smith of The Politico:
In a picture supplied by Sarah Palin's family to the Associated Press, Palin appears with some rather odd reading matter: The magazine of the ultraconservative John Birch Society.

The picture, dating to 1995, when Palin was a member of the Wasilla City Council, ran beside a profile of Palin in Saturday's New York Times. The magazine, The New American, is sitting on top of her calendar on her desk, unopened.

The current, and then-, president of the group, John McManus, confirmed that the cover fit the description of a 1995 issue of the magazine. The headline, "Con-Con Call," refers to discussion at the time of a constitutional convention. The headline appears above a picture of then-Utah Governor Mike Leavitt, who had floated the notion as a way of returning the balance of power back toward the states. But the author warned that the convention could actually be a devious ploy aimed at increasing government power.

What sort of person gives out pictures of themselves with the John Birch Society Magazine? This wasn't some random snapshot. This is a photo her family supplied to the Associated Press. Did this magazine just happen to be there when the picture was taken? Was her family ignorant of what was in the picture when they sent it out? Is this some sort of dog whistle message of affinity with ultra-right wingers? Did Palin read this magazine regularly back then? Does she now?

There are all sorts of innocent explanations as to how she'd end up with such a publication in front of her. But why would she include it in a publicity photo?

Alaska women rally AGAINST Palin

Yeah, the right wing loves her. But she also activates our base. Here's an account of an anti-Palin rally in Alaska:

Never, have I seen anything like it in my 17 and a half years living in Anchorage. The organizers had someone walk the rally with a counter, and they clicked off well over 1400 people (not including the 90 counter-demonstrators). This was the biggest political rally ever, in the history of the state. I was absolutely stunned. The second most amazing thing is how many people honked and gave the thumbs up as they drove by. And even those that didn’t honk looked wide-eyed and awe-struck at the huge crowd that was growing by the minute. This just doesn’t happen here.

Then, the infamous Eddie Burke showed up. He tried to talk to the media, and was instantly surrounded by a group of 20 people who started shouting O-BA-MA so loud he couldn’t be heard. Then passing cars started honking in a rhythmic pattern of 3, like the Obama chant, while the crowd cheered, hooted and waved their signs high.

So, if you’ve been doing the math… Yes. The Alaska Women Reject Palin rally was significantly bigger than Palin’s rally that got all the national media coverage! So take heart, sit back, and enjoy the photo gallery. Feel free to spread the pictures around (links are appreciated) to anyone who needs to know that Sarah Palin most definitely does not speak for all Alaskans. The citizens of Alaska, who know her best, have things to say.

Biggest rally ever? I'd be surprised if that were true. But it's great to see people speaking out against her. Follow the link to see pictures. (HT: Pablo via email.)

No on California Proposition 8

There's an initiative on California's ballot this November, Proposition 8:
ELIMINATES RIGHT OF SAME-SEX COUPLES TO MARRY. INITIATIVE CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT. Changes California Constitution to eliminate the right of same-sex couples to marry. Provides that only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.
It it very important that this be defeated. The Mormons are supporting it big-time, and they have a lot of money and people behind it. You can donate here to help defeat this.

A recent Field Poll has some good news: They find 55% opposed, 38% in favor, vs. 51% opposed 42% in favor back in July. And I'm optimistic that various celebrity gay marriages that have attracted attention will sway some people into believing that it's an OK thing. But with the money and energy the anti-gay marriage forces are bringing to bear, it's no time to rest on our laurels. I think will win, but I still made a contribution.

Not only is this an important battle for California, but I really think a victory here could turn the tide nationally on using anti-gay sentiment as a political wedge issue for the Republicans.

McCain is dumbass ignorant or batshit crazy

First of all, it's pretty clear from this clip that McCain thinks Spain is in Latin America and that he has no idea who Spain's president, Jose Zapatero is. (Despite the fact that back in April, McCain said we would invite Zapatero to the White House.)

Also, McCain thinks the president can fire the chair of the SEC. Um, no, the president can't.

Neither of these will have the impact of McCain's recent statement that he thinks "The fundamentals of our economy are strong." That's the sort of out-of-touch doozy that can help you lose an election. Especially since it reinforces an already existing narrative about McCain being hopelessly isolated from the financial realities of the nation (thinks anyone making under $5 million a year is middle class, thinks American's wouldn't pick lettuce for $50 an hour, can't remember how many houses he owns, etc.)

What other whoppers does this pair of buffoons have to offer us? It's becoming more and more clear that neither of them should be allowed near heavy machinery, to say nothing of the executive branch of the US government.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Reminder: McCain was one of the "Keating Five"

Remember the savings and loan scandal? Well, I don't really either. But it was sort of a mini version of what is happening today (A mere 124.6 billion). And guess who one of the corrupt senators who helped enable it was? Yes, John McCain.

Given what we're going through right now, who in their right mind would vote for that guy? Kudos to Sherrod Brown (Senator from Ohio, Democrat) for pointing that out (HT: david mizner on DailyKos).

Palin blessed by African witch hunter

No, that's not The Onion. Here's a blog from the Times Online:
The pastor whose prayer Sarah Palin says helped her to become governor of Alaska founded his ministry with a witchhunt against a Kenyan woman who he accused of causing car accidents through demonic spells.

At a speech at the Wasilla Assembly of God on June 8 this year, Mrs Palin described how Thomas Muthee had laid his hands on her when he visited the church as a guest preacher in late 2005, prior to her successful gubernatorial bid.

This sort of thing makes me want to start a Marxist revolution

The CEO who drove AIG's stock price into oblivion and precipitated an $85 billion bailout with taxpayer money is getting a $47 million dollar severance package:
American International Group said it paid a $47 million severance package to former Chief Executive Martin J. Sullivan, whose resignation took effect on Tuesday.

Sullivan, who left his position in mid-June after two quarters of record losses at AIG [AIG 2.05 -1.70 (-45.33%) ], will receive severance of $15 million, and a bonus of $4 million for the portion of the year he worked, according to a regulatory filing.

Sullivan also will hold on to outstanding equity and long-term cash awards valued at about $28 million, the filing said.

His resignation is being treated as for "good reason" meaning he is entitled to the severance package outlined in his employment agreement but contingent on his not competing with AIG for business for one year.

I don't think they have to worry about that last non-compete point. If you were an insurance company, would you hire this guy?

This sort of thing shows that our current capitalist system, whatever its merits, is not on a sound moral foundation. Now, I don't really want a Marxist revolution, and it's very likely I would end up much worse off than I am now should one come about (as would most of us, I suspect). But when a guy gets paid $47 million to destroy a company, put our entire financial system at risk, and put our already debt-strangled government $85 billion more in the hole, a little state ownership of the means of production doesn't sound so bad. Would government bureaucrats do worse than this guy? One thing's for sure: you wouldn't have to pay the People's Minister of Insurance $47 million to fire his or her sorry ass.

Welcome to socialism!

Over the past week, the United States government has nationalized the two largest mortgage companies and the largest insurance company in the country. I'm sure if this happened in just about any other country we would be reading articles in The Economist tut-tutting our government for ignoring the glorious virtues of private enterprise. (Actually, I am interested in what the Economist will say when it arrives.) Dday on Hullaballoo expresses this sentiment nicely:
Yes, that's right, you've got a troubled insurance giant with billions of dollars tied up in worthless pieces of paper masquerading as securities. Yours for the low low price of $85 billion dollars!

You know, if this was Bolivia, the State Department would put out a strong statement declaiming the nationalization of industry and the stifling of private enterprise. But of course, in this case, industry made horrible decisions, so that justifies the Communism. It's unclear to me that it's even legal for the government to structure this absent legislation, but we're in a brave new world.
Anyway, now that the US government controls these entities, what should we do with them? Should we try to make them instruments of progressive policy? Should we get them back into the private sector as soon as possible? Should we dismantle them and sell them off piecemeal? It really is a challenge that I don't think too many people have spent too much time thinking about. At least I haven't. Yglesias has some interesting initial ideas:

Everyone in the policy community seems semi-paralyzed by the sheer scale of recent news and the volume of demands for basic explanations of what, exactly, is happening. But looking a bit past all that, isn’t there an enormous progressive opportunity here?

In November, there’s going to be an election. And in January, there’ll be a new President. And in the interim, progressive groups will probably come up with a lot of “ten ways to make everything awesome” proposals. And it’ll take 41 conservative senators to filibuster them all, and so they’ll all be filibustered. But if the government directly controls major financial institutions, that would give the new administration extraordinary leverage over the national economy. Suppose the new CEO of AIG decided he didn’t want to insure assets of companies whose executives make unseemly multiples of the national median income? There are all kinds of crazy things you could do. And of course not all of them woul dbe good ideas. But some of them would! And the smart folks on our side need to be figuring out which ones they are. It seems doubtful to me that a progressive administration would ever be able to get away with this much nationalizing of everything, but what’s done is done and I think it creates a real opportunity for “socially conscious insurance underwriting” or whatever you care to call it.

If the taxpayer is going to pay hundreds of billions of dollars, we should get something in return. Of course, I'm not sure I want to let the government use these entities as instruments of social policy, because the Republicans aren't going away and it is very likely that the power would be used for evil instead of good. So maybe we need to give our liberal statist dreams a dose of skepticism.

Still, we must deal constructively with the fact that Uncle Sam is currently the biggest mortgage backer and the biggest insurance company in the US right now.

In closing, dday makes an excellent point:
...this is an INSURANCE company who couldn't manage their own risk.

Social Networking beats Porn

Porn has been dethroned by social networking as the #1 activity on the Web:

Tancer, general manager of global research at Hitwise, an Internet tracking company, said one of the major shifts in Internet use in the past decade had been the fall off in interest in pornography or adult entertainment sites.

He said surfing for porn had dropped to about 10 percent of searches from 20 percent a decade ago, and the hottest Internet searches now are for social networking sites.

"As social networking traffic has increased, visits to porn sites have decreased," said Tancer, indicated that the 18-24 year old age group particularly was searching less for porn.

"My theory is that young users spend so much time on social networks that they don't have time to look at adult sites."

I guess the urge to connect with other people is stronger than the urge to look at naughty pictures. The Internet: getting more and more like regular life all the time.

Other interesting tidbits from that article:
...an annual spike in searches for anti-depression drugs around Thanksgiving time in the United States.
Not surprising.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Pink Floyd keyboardist Rick Wright dies

I was saddened to hear this:

Sept. 15 (Bloomberg) -- Richard Wright, a founding member of U.K. rock band Pink Floyd whose keyboard lines were an integral part of its psychedelic sound, has died. He was 65.

Wright died today after a short battle with cancer, said his spokesman, Doug Wright, who isn't related.

While Richard Wright gets credit mostly for his work on the keyboard -- which he taught himself -- he also wrote songs and sang on Floyd classics such as ``Time'' and ``Echoes.''

While not as central to Pink Floyd's sound and artistic vision as David Gilmour or Roger Waters, he was definitely part of the chemistry that made the band something special, particularly in his early days. One of his most famous compositions was the wordless "The Great Gig in the Sky" from Dark Side of the Moon:

Pink Floyd doesn't mean as much to me now as it did in late high school and college. But it was definitely a major part of my life. Another sad passing to mark. Here's Wright's Wikipedia entry.

White privilege

A great rant:
[...]
White privilege is when you can get pregnant at seventeen like Bristol Palin and everyone is quick to insist that your life and that of your family is a personal matter, and that no one has a right to judge you or your parents, because “every family has challenges,” even as black and Latino families with similar “challenges” are regularly typified as irresponsible, pathological and arbiters of social decay.

White privilege is when you can call yourself a “fuckin’ redneck,” like Bristol Palin’s boyfriend does, and talk about how if anyone messes with you, you'll “kick their fuckin' ass,” and talk about how you like to “shoot shit” for fun, and still be viewed as a responsible, all-American boy (and a great son-in-law to be) rather than a thug.

White privilege is when you can attend four different colleges in six years like Sarah Palin did (one of which you basically failed out of, then returned to after making up some coursework at a community college), and no one questions your intelligence or commitment to achievement, whereas a person of color who did this would be viewed as unfit for college, and probably someone who only got in in the first place because of affirmative action.
[...]
Via Coates, who sums it up:
The basic point here, I think, is that racism allows white people to be mediocre.

Black comedian introduces John McCain

This is really damn funny. Here's an excerpt:

(laughter)

Alaska in the house!

(Cheers)

Where the baby daddy at? Where he at?

(crowd noise)

You knocked her up, man? That’s cool. That’s cool.

(silence)

You know that word ‘abstinence’—you know that mean ‘no fucking,’ right?

(laughter)

I guess they didn’t make that clear at the seminar.

(laughter)

‘So I just use this abstinence, that mean we can fuck all we want, right?’ No!

(laughter)

Via Sullivan, who says, "Made me spit half my latte on my laptop in a car somewhere in New Jersey now." Read the whole thing.

Obama regaining momentum

The Palin flush is wearing off, and the "McCain is a pathetic, desperate serial liar" meme is starting to take hold. It's starting to show up in national polls:
The four tracking polls for today have all been released, and collectively they show Obama ahead 46.75%--45.25% (links can be found in quick hits). Even in the two tracking polls where McCain leads by a single point, Gallup and Rasmussen, Haggai's numbers indicate a strong possibility that Obama led in polling conducted last night. So, it now seems possible--or, actually, it now seems likely--that Obama has regained the national lead.
Bowers goes on to discuss four possible reasons for this: Palin wearing off, convention bounce wearing off, the financial crisis, and the fact that McCain had to spend a lot of his money before the convention and now is on public financing.

Intrade still has McCain up by a couple percent, but things are moving Obama's way.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Aint no easy way out of financial crisis

Atrios:
Through this crisis, there's this underlying narrative that something can be done, that there's just a wee liquidity problem. But underlying all of this is the fact that banks made a bunch of stupid loans which aren't being repaid. A bunch of people made highly leveraged investments in securities backed by those loans. A bunch of other people sold insurance on those securities and related debt.

Lots of money is being lost and there isn't any way to fix that.

Pakistan has decided it doesn't want us in their territory

The situation in Afghanistan seems to be getting worse. If we can't go into Pakistan without the regular Pakistani military shooting at us, that's going to make things even more difficult than they already are:
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan - Pakistan's military has ordered its forces to open fire if U.S. troops launch another air or ground raid across the Afghan border, an army spokesman said Tuesday.

The orders, which come in response to a highly unusual Sept. 3 ground attack by U.S. commandos, are certain to heighten tensions between Washington and a key ally against terrorism. Although the ground attack was rare, there have been repeated reports of U.S. drone aircraft striking militant targets, most recently on Sept. 12.
I'm not exactly sure we should be fighting counter-insurgency warfare in Afghanistan at all. The last several powers that did so didn't fare too well, and I see no reason it will be any different with us. We do want to disrupt any international terrorist training, but perhaps there are ways to do that (bribery, air strikes, local proxies, etc.) without slogging it out with our own troops.

Minnesotans really are nicer

Via Yglesias, we have these maps of regional differences in major personality traits:

So the myth of Minnesota nice and New York rudeness has some basis.

Political unrest in Bolivia

Via and email from Pablo, here's a good summary of what's going on in Bolivia. It starts with some background:
The Road to Confrontation

Bolivia's steady path to bloody conflict did not begin this week. The nation in the heart of South America bears the distinctions of being both the continent's most impoverished, as well as the most indigenous country in all of the Americas. Going back to the Spanish conquest, Bolivia's indigenous majority has always been driven to the political and economic margins, ruled by a whiter and wealthier elite in a political culture not unlike South Africa during apartheid.

That political imbalance began to change dramatically in 2000 with the now-famous Cochabamba Water Revolt. The Revolt, in which citizens took to the streets to take back their public water system from the Bechtel Corporation, signaled a rising up of the nation's most impoverished against economic policies imposed on the country in the 1990s by an alliance of wealthy leaders and global institutions in Washington, including the World Bank and International Monetary Fund.
The piece goes on to discuss the immediate causes of the violence, and why the Bolivians would throw out the US ambassador. It's a sad story, but I now feel I know at least the basics of what's going on.

Monday, September 15, 2008

What's going on in Bolivia and Venezuela?

I don't normally link to WSJ editorials, but what's up with Bolivia and Venezuela throwing out their American ambassadors and hosting Russian military planes? This seems like more than the usual level of anti-US activity.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Homeland Security Charade

The terrorist watch list is a pathetic joke. I've written about this recently and not-so-recently, and I'm sad to hear that the stupidity continues. A Canadian guy on the list was tired of getting pulled out of line all the time, so he changed his name:

Although Labbé wrote letters to the U.S. department, his efforts were in vain, prompting him to legally change his name.

"So now, my official name is François Mario Labbé," he said.

"Then you have to change everything: driver's license, social insurance, medicare, credit card — everything."

Although it's not a big change from Mario Labbé, he said it's been enough to foil the U.S. customs computers.

(via John Cole.) It's that last line that frickin' makes me want to cry. All that hassle and stupidity we have to put up with, and all the real terrorist has to do is a name change and they go right through. Pathetic. I swear, the people who come up with these policies should have "I am a pathetic moron" tattooed permanently on their foreheads as punishment for inconveniencing us and putting a big drag on our economy.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Negativity vs. Falsehood

Yglesias makes a good point:

Michael Cooper and Jim Rutenberg look at the truth about John McCain and flinch from telling their readers about it:

Harsh advertisements and negative attacks are a staple of presidential campaigns, but Senator John McCain has drawn an avalanche of criticism this week from Democrats, independent groups and even some Republicans for regularly stretching the truth in attacking Senator Barack Obama’s record and positions.

Not only is it strange to refer to McCain’s lying as “stretching the truth,” it’s odd to make the active clause here the fact that McCain “has drawn an avalanche of criticism” for his truth-stretching rather than the fact that McCain is lying. But most of all, there’s no reason the press should treat harsh, negative, accurate attacks as somehow continues with harsh, negative, lies. For example, Barack Obama has often been a supporter of unsound coal liquification schemes. I just put that pretty politely. One could say something harsher and more negative about Obama’s coal record. And there’s nothing wrong with that. Politicians should be harshly criticized for things they do by their political adversaries.

But doling out harsh negative criticism of something a politician actually did is an entirely different can of worms from doling out harsh negative attacks based on lies. The notion that Obama called Sarah Palin a “pig” is a lie — the McCain campaign made it up. It’s not “harsh,” it’s false.

McCain disses Palin's experience as Mayor and Governor

McCain is a lying sack of shit who deserves no respect from anyone whatsoever. Here he is belittling the experience of mayors and governors (from Crooks and Liars). Of course, this is before he chose someone as his VP who is exactly the kind of person he belittles in this clip What a sad, contemptible, pathetic man he has revealed himself to be.

Keep calm, carry on

Via Ta-Nehisi Coates.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Constitutional obstacle course for the presidency

Grishnash paints a crazy scenario:
A fun exercise (partially cribbed from www.electoral-vote.com):

Election Day 2008. The votes come in, and are pretty much the same as 2004, except Obama has picked up Nevada, New Mexico and Iowa, which went Republican in 2004. That leaves Obama with 269 electoral votes, and McCain with... 269 electoral votes.
Uh oh, the Presidential vote goes to the House for the first time since 1824. Let's say there are no too-radical changes in the composition of the House. There can be some sweeping out of a few marginal seats of the minority party from their states, maybe, but only a few key races. For instance, Lynn Jenkins (R) beats out incumbent Nancy Boyda (D) in Kansas, and Travis Childers (D) loses the rematch with Greg Davis in Mississippi.
So, the vote goes by states, with the states voting in the order they were admitted to the union. The winning vote from each state's delegation is then counted as a single vote for that state. Let's say everyone votes on party lines. Everything goes as expected through the first 38 votes. After Colorado's Democratic delegation (the 38th) votes for Obama, Obama leads 22-16. Obama is certain to win Hawaii and Washington state when they get their chances to vote, and the next vote is Earl Pomeroy (D) who gets to decide the fate of North Dakota's vote on his own. Obama lost the popular vote in North Dakota, but not by much, and Pomeroy is loyal to his party, and so he votes for Obama (23-16). This sets off a political firestorm, and there is huge pressure for the next one to vote, Stephanie Herseth Sandlin, who likewise single-handedly controls South Dakota's vote. Fearful of her re-election chances, she votes for McCain, bringing the total to 23-17. As expected, Montana, then Washington bring the vote to 24-18. Then a run of hard-core Republican states (Idaho, Wyoming, Utah, Oklahoma, New Mexico) brings it to 24-23 and to Arizona, where the delegation is deadlocked in a 4-4 tie. Finally, they agree that with McCain having won the state's electoral votes, and it being his home state, that has to be the tiebreaker, and it's all evened up at 24-24. Alaska and then Hawaii bring it to 25-25 and another deadlock.
So then the Senate votes for vice-president. Everyone votes along party lines, except where they've endorsed differently. Lieberman and Chafee cancel each other out, and Biden wins over Palin easily. But no president has yet been elected still. The House has to vote again. This time there is HUGE pressure on Pomeroy to change, but also on another "odd man out" representative: Mike Castle (R) of Delaware. Now, he has an incentive to change his vote, and does in this second round. But Pomeroy changes as well, and the vote ends up right where it was. 25-25.
And so it goes, on through two weeks of deadlocked 25-25 votes... And on January 20th, 2009 there is the historic inauguration of President Biden.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Quinn and Grandpa

Quote of the Day

Ta-Nehisi Coates:
That thread on old-school nerdom got me thinking. Was half the stuff I loved as a kid even that good? I recently bought a collection of every old Transformers episode ever made and--surprise--most of the sucked. The movie was still incredible though and holds up remarkably well. Anyway from time to time I go on Youtube and play the following video. I don't even know how good the show was--but it reminds me of a time I thought I'd never yearn for. God damn, I hated being a kid. But the one thing that age robs--and probably technology--is that sense of wonder. I got to tap into that when I wrote my book. But now, rarely a day goes by when I don't yearn for that sense of boundlessness.
I didn't hate being I kid, but the loss of a sense of wonder and boundlessness is something I completely identify with. I remember it so well. It's what I got from early computer games like Ultima II, IV, and V, and the Might & Magic games and Star Control II and many others. Sometimes I still get it from an awesome D&D session or when thinking about making up a D&D character. I get a sense of it at Gen Con sometimes, because of the crush of so many people and the myriad of attractions. I used to get it from some MMORPGs, but the shine wore off. It is much harder to come by these days.

I make computer games now, and while I still enjoy them (though I have much less time to do so), I always have my critical faculties engaged, and I don't get the sense of limitlessness that I used to.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Yo, McCain, ENOUGH with the colored backgrounds

It makes stuff like this just too easy:

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Unitarian Universalist of the day: Randy Pauch

Remember back when I posted Randy Pauch's Last Lecture? At the time, I didn't know he was a fellow Unitarian Universalist:
Randy Pausch, Computer Science Professor at Carnegie Mellon University, died on July 25 after a two-year struggle with pancreatic cancer. A Unitarian Universalist who first came to this faith as a member of the First Unitarian Church of Pittsburgh (Pennsylvania), Pausch was 47 years old. Celebrated in his field for co-founding the pioneering Carnegie Mellon Entertainment Technology Center and for creating the innovative educational software tool known as “Alice,” Pausch earned his greatest worldwide fame for his inspirational The Last Lecture which was subsequently published by Hyperion Books. Pausch was interviewed by UUA.org this past June. [...]

Monday, September 08, 2008

Quote of the Day

Sullivan in the Times Online:
So last week, McCain picked someone he had only met once before. I repeat: he picked someone he had only met once before. His vetting chief sat Palin down for a face-to-face interview the Wednesday before last. It's very hard to overstate how nutty and irresponsible this is. Would any corporate chieftain pick a number two on those grounds and not be dismissed by his board for recklessness?
McCain must be kept away from the White House.

Baby blogging: Small World Park

Who owns Big Shitpile? WE DO!

The American Taxpayer is now on the hook for all those bad loans.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Quote of the Day

Isn't Palin supposed to move to Cheney's undisclosed location after she gets elected, not before?

--Josh Marshall
Good question, but as I don't think she'll be elected, we should be spared that dilemma.

Palin's acceptance speech

OK, after finally watching the first half Governor Palin's acceptance speech, I'm much relieved. From the hype surrounding that woman and her speech, I was expecting the red state beauty queen cyclone of Republican oratorical death. Instead I could barely keep my attention on her. Yes, I can see how some people will identify with her. But she's not a personality that's going to move mountains.

Of course, I was totally not the target market for that speech. But I'm totally not scared of her.

Baby blogging

Quinn demonstrates superior two-handed top spinning technique:

Saturday, September 06, 2008

McCain's roommates

Another funny video sent to me by Mad Latinist, who seems to have become more active in feeding me stuff recently:
See more funny videos at Funny or Die

Sarah Palin runs away

No really. She's fleeing the media. This is ridiculous. Sullivan:
I'm simply staggered that someone who could be president in an instant next January has been in her position for a week and cannot be asked questions by the press corps. Has this ever happened before in American history? Again: unbelievable. And terrifying.
I repeat my assertion: McCain is batshit crazy and needs to be kept far away from all positions where his recklessness could hurt people. Giving that man the power to launch nuclear weapons would be insanity.

Nobody wants McCain campaign to use their intellectual property

What do Van Halen, Mike Myers, Walter Reed Middle School, Jackson Browne, Heart, and the copyright owners of the Rocky theme song have in common? They're all pissed that the McCain campaign has used their intellectual property in his campaign without permission.

And why the heck was McCain using a picture of Walter Reed Middle School as a backdrop for his speech? Did who ever put together those backdrops confuse Walter Reed Middle School with the Walter Reed Army Medical Center, where many veterans receive care? Apparently the McCain campaign isn't commenting, though previously a McCain staffer was blaming an ad person.

Another funny side effect of using the wrong Walter Reed image (and who is this Walter Reed that he gets so many institutions named after him anyway? Ah, he's the guy who discovered that yellow fever was spread by mosquitoes.) was that for a while McCain appeared to be speaking in front of a green screen during part of his speech. This reminded people of a previous poorly received speech that was made in front of an odd green background. Of course, such backgrounds make certain Photo Shop pranks easier, but it's hardly the association he'd wish to invoke.

I think this TPM reader sums it up best:
[T]he Walter Reed mix-up last night is indicative of GOP politics and policy-- that is, injured troops are merely political props, and even then the GOP can't get it right. If they can't get the actual Walter Reed up on screen as a political ploy, how can we possible expect their competence in addressing the needs of actual veterans at the actual Walter Reed?

Stewart skewers Republican hypocrisy

Someone's gotta call 'em on the fragrant spoonfulls of shit they're feeding us.

HT: Mad Latinist via e-mail and just about every blog I read.

Glad I don't own stock in these companies

The US government is planning to take control of Freddie Mac and Fanny Mae:
WASHINGTON — Senior officials from the Bush administration and the Federal Reserve on Friday called in top executives of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the mortgage finance giants, and told them that the government was preparing to place the two companies under federal control, officials and company executives briefed on the discussions said.

The plan, which would place the companies into a conservatorship, was outlined in separate meetings with the chief executives at the office of the companies’ new regulator. The executives were told that, under the plan, they and their boards would be replaced and shareholders would be virtually wiped out, but that the companies would be able to continue functioning with the government generally standing behind their debt, people briefed on the discussions said.

It is not possible to calculate the cost of any government bailout, but the huge potential liabilities of the companies could cost taxpayers tens of billions of dollars and make any rescue among the largest in the nation’s history.

Big shitpile get stinkier and stinkier. I hope this doesn't send the economy down the tubes. This is pretty frickin' huge.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Community Organizers Stike Back!

Via dday on Hullaboloo, Community Organizers Fight Back:
“Community organizers work in neighborhoods that have been hit hardest by the failing economy,” said John Raskin, founder of Community Organizers of America and a community organizer on the West Side of Manhattan. “The last thing we need is for Republican officials to mock us on television when we’re trying to rebuild the neighborhoods they have destroyed. Maybe if everyone had more houses than they can count, we wouldn’t need community organizers. But I work with people who are getting evicted from their only home. If John McCain and the Republicans understood that, maybe they wouldn’t be so quick to make fun of community organizers like me.”

Tom Ridge makes Freudian Slip

This is just great. Maybe Tom Ridge is miffed about getting passed over for VP, and is taking it out subconsciously on McCain:


And then there's this, where Peggy Noonan and Mike Murphy (both Republicans) thinking their microphones are off, trash Sarah Palin:

Noonan: "It's over"

What a couple of days

Well, I imagine there's quite a bit of Palinmania going on: the Republican base loves her, the tabloids love her, everyone's talking about her. Here are my thoughts: she's going to help McCain energize the base, but she's going to alienate the independents and swing voters. Her speech was a "red meat" speech rather than a "reach out" speech. And she's also activating the Democratic base in reaction against her. I don't think an "activate the base" strategy is going to work in 2008 (neither does James Fallows), simply because that was what barely worked in 2000 and 2004, and the trends since then have been against the Republicans since then.

So yes, we should take Palin seriously as a threat, even if we have trouble taking her seriously as a candidate. But the Real Clear Politics, electoral-vote.com, Pollster.com, and FiveThirtyEight composites are all still predicting an Obama victory. There may be a Republican bounce after the convention, but I think the ongoing Palin revelations will push that aside.

And the Palin scandals won't stop. The latest is that the Alaska police union is filing a complaint against Palin for snooping into personnel records. I have no idea if there are any "she must withdraw" doozies out there. I suspect there won't be. But there will be a drip drip drip of things trickling out. We're only on day six of getting to know her and already there's troopergate, her support of the "bridge to nowhere" and repeated lying about it, her associations with seccessionists, her attempt to get books banned, the staggering debt she left Wassalia with, the anti-Jewish remarks made at her church, etc. It's pretty clear she wasn't well-vetted. Since she's such an unknown, there's so much we need to learn about her. Isn't learning fun?

By the way, don't forget to give Obama and/or other Democrats some money. "Palin nomination backfires as Democrats roll in the cash" would be a great headline to see.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Us Weekly not helping McCain's campaign

The supermarket tabloids are joining the feeding frenzy.

Instant Karma! What kind of sermons did Palin sit through?

Maybe the Republicans shouldn't have gone after Obama's pastor. Here's The Politico describing a sermon by David Brickner, which Palin saw:
Brickner also described terrorist attacks on Israelis as God's "judgment of unbelief" of Jews who haven't embraced Christianity.

"Judgment is very real and we see it played out on the pages of the newspapers and on the television. It's very real. When [Brickner's son] was in Jerusalem he was there to witness some of that judgment, some of that conflict, when a Palestinian from East Jerusalem took a bulldozer and went plowing through a score of cars, killing numbers of people. Judgment — you can't miss it."
Now this doesn't mean Palin agrees with this sort of thing. Maybe she thought that was a horrible assertion to make. But given what the Republicans tried to do to Obama over Reverend Wright, I think it's only fair to ask what her views are on this.

Can I just say that Palin is not ready for prime time? Yes, we need to be ready for the Nixonian elitist resentment backlash thing, as pointed out by Lackoff and Coates, but I really think it's getting beyond the point where that sort of thing will be greater than the overall negative impact.

The hivemind predicts the future

If you were watching the frequency of Wikipedia page edits, you might have gotten the scoop on who McCain picked for VP:

In the days leading up to Republican presidential candidate John McCain's running mate announcement, political junkies glued to broadcasts and blogs for clues of McCain's veep choice might have done better to keep a sharp eye on each candidate's Wikipedia entry.

Just hours before McCain declared his veep choice of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, her Wiki page saw a flurry of activity, with editors adding details about her approval rating and husband's employment. Perhaps more tellingly, some of the same users editing her page were almost simultaneously updating McCain's Wiki entry, adding information dealing with accuracy, sources and footnotes to each.

HT: Mad Latinist from the comments. My favorite method of figuring out who the vice presidential picks would be is by tracking flight plans for charter planes. Ambinder did it with Biden, Abulsme.com did it for Palin. If you want to play the game yourself, (say, when McCain dumps Palin (13% on Intrade as of this posting) and speculation runs rampant on who will replace her) you can go here.

Intrade adds "PALIN.VP.WITHDRAWN" contract

Right now, the betters at Intrade give Governor Palin a 14.8% chance of being dropped from the ticket before the election.

Maybe I ought to buy a few of those contracts...

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Palin would force rape victims to bear rapist's child

Palin opposes abortion in all cases, even in cases of rape and incest.

Hardly the sort of stance that's going to endear her to many women, to say nothing of Clinton supporters.

Dude, McCain is batshit crazy

Um, dude, I don't like Sarah Palin, but that's really not the big issue here. The big issue is how John McCain makes decisions. Stories are popping up everywhere about how Governor Palin wasn't properly vetted. Steve Benen:

To reiterate a point from the weekend, the fact that Sarah Palin shouldn't be one heartbeat from leading the free world is obvious, but beside the point. The problem here is that John McCain's judgment is so comically flawed, the prospect of his presidency is starting to become quite literally frightening.

Even cursory vetting would have turned up some of these basic details of Palin's record. Indeed, her career in public office is so brief, this should have been extremely easy for even incompetent researchers. McCain, one assumes, would have demanded extensive background information before making a decision of this magnitude. Except, he didn't.

So, what are we left with here? John McCain met Sarah Palin in person once, for 15 minutes. Months later, he then talked to her on the phone for five minutes. Four days later, without a thorough background check, he invited her to be vice presidential nominee of the Republican Party.

Sensible people of sound mind and character simply don't do things like this. Leaders don't do things like this. Those fundamentally unsuited for the presidency do things like this.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Palin thinks Pledge of Allegiance was around during our nation's founding

Sarah Palin, who for some strange reason is McCain's choice for vice-president, has some of the usual right-wing alternate reality problem when it comes to American history. Specifically, she thinks that the phrase "under God", in the pledge of allegiance, was good enough for the Founding Fathers of our nation. Eagle Forum Alaska in 2006 sent out a questionnaire to the various gubernatorial candidates. Here's question #11 and Sarah Palin's response:
11. Are you offended by the phrase “Under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance? Why or why not?
[...]
SP: Not on your life. If it was good enough for the founding fathers, its good enough for me and I’ll fight in defense of our Pledge of Allegiance.
(HT: JLFinch on DailyKos.) I'm sure the readers of Internal Monologue already know that the Pledge of Allegiance was authored by a Christian Socialist in 1892. And that by 1892, anyone with the remotest claim to the title of "Founding Father" of the United States had long since decomposed. Furthermore, the phrase "under God" was only shoehorned into the loyalty oath in the 1950's, by which time all but the most durable portions of the Founding Fathers would have been recycled back into the ecosystem.

I doubt the revelation of this misapprehension will sway anyone. Those predisposed to favor Sarah Palin are not likely to be much offended by her back-dating the Pledge of Allegiance by over a century. And those of us who care about these things are already appalled by her creationist sympathies and forced pregnancy views (even in the cases of rape, incest, and danger to the life of the mother).

But just in case that there were some people out there who thought she might somehow be free of wingnuttery, I offer this example to show that she's as steeped in delusional reality as the rest of Christianists.