Friday, October 31, 2008

Bowers calls it for Obama already

Why so bold? Early voting:
Here is why this is over:

  1. In order to win the election, all Barack Obama needs are the Kerry states, plus Colorado, Iowa and New Mexico. That adds up to 273 electoral votes.

  2. Obama leads by at least 9.5% in every Kerry state and Iowa, according to both Pollster.com and Real Clear Politics. Also, my own numbers concur with those calculations.

  3. This means that in order to win the election, all Obama has to do is hold onto states where he leads by 9.5% or more, and win both Colorado and New Mexico. These are both states where more than half of all voters will cast their ballots before Election Day (source). In other words, the elections in Colorado and New Mexico are already almost over, not just beginning. And these are the only two states he needs to win, other than the ones where he leads by double-digits.

  4. In Colorado, about 60% of the vote is already in. According to the crosstabs of the three most recent polls in the state, Obama leads early voters by 15% (Rasmussen), 18% (Marist) and 17% (PPP). Even in the best case scenario for McCain, where he only trails by 15% among those who have already voted and only 55% of the vote is in, he still needs to win the remaining voters by 18.4% in order to eek out the state. And that is the best-case scenario. The worst case scenario for McCain--65% of the vote in and an 18% deficit among early voters--is that he needs to win the remaining voters by 33.5% in order to win the election.

  5. That leaves New Mexico. In 2004, New Mexico had an even higher rate of early voting than Colorado (50.6% to 47.9%). Further, all polling aggregation sites show Obama's lead to be larger in New Mexico than in Colorado. While the recent dearth of polling in the Land of Enchantment means there are no early voting crosstabs, those two facts suggest the situation is even worse for McCain in New Mexico than in Colorado. At the very least, it isn't much better. Update: A new poll from PPP in New Mexico indicates that 56% of the vote is in, and Obama leads 64%-36% among those voters. If that is accurate, McCain would have to win the remaining voters by 35.7%.

So, unless Obama one of the following occurs:

  • Obama blows a double-digit lead in either Iowa or one Kerry state
  • McCain wins the minority of remaining voters in either Colorado or New Mexico by at least 20%
Then the election is over and Obama has won no matter what happens anywhere else.

I am not quite so sanguine as Bowers: Something could go awry in Pennsylvania or some other Kerry state, there could be some sort of game-changing external event, etc. But the fact of early voting does pound a few more nails into McCain's electoral coffin.

Christians pray at golden bull for wealth

From the "Their reality has lapped our satire" / "No, this isn't The Onion" department, we have this picture of people, who purport to be followers of Christianity, praying at a statue of a bull on Wall Street for economic recovery:


Ah, it pains me to realize that the people doing this probably have no sense of the deep ironies involved. I bet they mean well. And I, too, am scared of financial catastrophe. So perhaps it is cruel to mock them. But c'mon people. A golden bull?

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Toddler blogging

Quinn smiles as Sarah sings the "I will shake your hand" song to him.

Quinn has Fragile X

I haven't mentioned this on Internal Monologue yet, but it's time my readers know that my two year old son Quinn has fragile X syndrome, a currently incurable genetic condition that causes mental retardation, developmental delay, and low muscle tone. Much of my readership knows about this already, and we thank you for all your words and deeds of support and encouragement.

Sarah and I have a separate blog about it, Love and Survival with Fragile X. I'll be posting most of the fragile X-related material there, while Internal Monologue will continue to cover the subjects it has in the past. LSFX is a much more personal, emotional space for us, so I'll probably be keeping things separate there except for this post and the link in the sidebar.

Quinn continues to be a wonderful, happy, friendly, cute, and for the most part healthy little guy. We hope he has a community who will support and look out for him. We don't want his fragile X syndrome diagnosis to overwhelm his identity, or ours. But it is an enormous reality in all of our lives, and it's time I shared it with my readers. If you want to take a peek at the joys and sorrows, head on over.

We're still fighting the Civil War

Sullivan directs his readers to compare two maps: one showing which side the states were on in the American Civil War, and another showing which states are currently favoring Obama or McCain. To save your mouse finger some clicks, here are those maps:

I don't think the resemblance is a coincidence. A few states have switched, but the pattern still holds. It's going to take a long time to heal this division in our country. A Sullivan reader writes:
An Obama presidency means much more than a truce in the 60’s culture war. It means the end of a much older and more terrible war, in which the 60's was merely one battle: the American Civil War. That is what is at stake here.
The Civil War was fought from Sumter to Appomattox, from April 12, 1861, to April 9, 1865. But the roots of the war predated 1861, and the consequences lived on long after 1865. In reality the Civil War never ended, it just shifted from a military to a culture war - the same culture war that is still going on today.
Read the whole thing. I don't think this is going to end any time soon. Obama's currently favored status is actually inflaming certain elements of this Red State coalition. But I think Obama has the personality, skills, and convictions to add a stitch or two to close the wound that slavery and racism slashed into our nation.

Sign of the day

From Marc Ambinder.

Obama's 30 minute closing argument


I didn't expect to like a 30-minute Obama infomercial, but it's actually quite good.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Make your face dance with electrical stimulation


From here. (HT: Jean via email)

Egad. That's totally scary and totally cool. It's frightening when the oh-so-human living body is revealed as the electro-bio-chemical mechanism that it is.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Why are we attacking into Syria?

[UPDATE: This is a good roundup of the speculation as to why this might have happened.]

Can someone tell me what's going on here? Is this just the Bush administration being international assholes or is there some deeper game or strategy at work here? Was it really necessary? Did they take into account the various forms of blowback that would no doubt result? Washington Post:

U.S. troops in helicopters flew four miles into Syrian territory over the weekend to target the leader of a network that channels foreign fighters from Syria into Iraq, killing or wounding him and shooting dead several armed men, U.S. officials said Monday.

U.S. officials have long complained that the Syrian government has allowed Arab fighters to pass through the country to enter Iraq, but since last year, top military leaders have praised Syrian efforts to curb the flow. In recent months, officials have estimated that as few as 20 fighters a month have been crossing into Iraq, down from more than a hundred a month in 2006.

Take your McCain robocall and shove it! I quit!

Call center workers in Indiana walk off the job rather than spread smears about Obama:

Some three dozen workers at a telemarketing call center in Indiana walked off the job rather than read an incendiary McCain campaign script attacking Barack Obama, according to two workers at the center and one of their parents.

Nina Williams, a stay-at-home mom in Lake County, Indiana, tells us that her daughter recently called her from her job at the center, upset that she had been asked to read a script attacking Obama for being "dangerously weak on crime," "coddling criminals," and for voting against "protecting children from danger."

Williams' daughter told her that up to 40 of her co-workers had refused to read the script, and had left the call center after supervisors told them that they would have to either read the call or leave, Williams says. The call center is called Americall, and it's located in Hobart, IN.

Awesome. I hope that the disruptions to their work and pay are not too severe. These people obviously need the money, otherwise they wouldn't work there. Nonetheless, they made the sacrifice and went home rather than participate. Makes me wonder how much I've really done to help usher in the kind of politics I think this country needs. Not as much as these folks.

Chrysler worth nothing? GM gonna buy it?

OK, this is scary:
The German automaker has depreciated its stake in Chrysler to zero from $268 million at the end of June, the company said Thursday. A little over a year ago, the company valued its 19.9% stake in Chrysler at $2.2 billion.
(via Calculated Risk via Eschaton)

So it looks like General Motors might buy Chrysler. So, if Daimler's valuation of Chrysler is accurate, will GM get Chrysler for free?

Hard times, dude.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Lego Vader in the Death Star canteen

The establishment will want to moderate/neuter Obama

Don't let Obama be hamstrung by all the "he has to be bipartisan (i.e. capitulate to Republicans) if he wants to get anything done" talk. Read this digby post to get a better sense of what I mean.

McCain-Palin: every maverick for themselves!

Apparently, Sarah Palin is so mavericky she's no longer touting McCain's talking points:

TAMPA, Florida (CNN) – Ensuring that news of the Republican National Committee's sartorial spending spree will remain in the headlines for at least one more news cycle, Sarah Palin on Sunday sounded off on the $150,000 wardrobe that was purchased for her in September, denouncing the report as "ridiculous" and declaring emphatically: "Those clothes, they are not my property."

A senior adviser to John McCain told CNN's Dana Bash that the comments about her wardrobe "were not the remarks we sent to her plane this morning."
(via Sullivan) The fact that Palin would ignore what the McCain campaign is instructing her to do, and that a senior adviser to McCain would dish about this to a reporter shows just how out of control the Republican in-fighting has become. It's been quite a spectacle on the blogs. This NYT Magazine piece goes into quite a bit of detail about the McCain campaign.

Friday, October 24, 2008

McCain's pick of Palin as a children's story

Presidential campaign as hip-hop dance contest


http://view.break.com/592648 - Watch more free videos

Maybe I should be posting more substantive stuff on this blog, but frankly there isn't a whole lot of news as far as the campaign goes. Obama's ahead, just like he's been for a while now. Check out FiveThirtyEight.com for the latest.

I'm glad I'm not DMing this campaign

The presidential contest as a very immature D&D campaign. An excerpt:
GM: OK, the bugbear attacks you. What do you do?

OBAMA: I send one of my 672 henchmen after it.

MCCAIN: OK, seriously. Why does he have so many henchmen? I'm a level 72 ranger and he's only a level 8 paladin.

OBAMA: Well, if you'd bought the Grassroots Organizing and Oratory/Colgate Smile proficiencies you could min max it so that you...

MCCAIN: Why is he even IN this campaign? I thought this was supposed to be a high level party.

OBAMA: Well, maybe some people got tired of the grim and squinty "Matterhorn, son of Marathon" shtick you keep doing. Dude, could you be any less original?

MCCAIN: Oh my god, I did not leave my left nut in a tiger cage in the Tomb of Horrors to spend my Friday nights mopping up after the new kid.

OBAMA: "My friends, I am a totally unoriginal grizzled character class stereotype. I should lead the party because I have more testicular damage than that one."

MCCAIN: Yeah, well, you pal around with dark elves.
(HT: Mad Latinist via email)

Muslim McCain supporter muzzled by McCain campaign

Remember those McCain supporters who confronted the smear merchants outside a McCain campaign event? One of them, Daniel Zubairi, was invited, to speak about the incident on CNN. But apparently the McCain campaign requested that Zubairi not talk about it.

This is really distressing. The whole episode made McCain supporters out to be morally courageous people who didn't want to be associated with hateful smears. I was proud of them. But I guess that's not the image the McCain campaign wants to project.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

John Woo, Kevin Smith, and Wes Anderson make McCain ads

Not the real directors, of course, but this clip captures their styles pretty well:

(via Yglesias)

The Universally Applicable Insult Game (TM)

[WARNING: FOUL LANGUAGE and UNPLEASANT IMAGERY]

The Universally Applicable Insult Game(TM) is where you come up with a insulting rant designed to be as denigrating as possible to your target. But there's a special rule: all insults in the rant must be applicable to human beings in general.

Here's an example:
You air-sucking, food-eating, water-gulping ape! Your father fucked your mother, and you squeeze nasty turds out your asshole! You're gonna die, you vertebrate. Go squirt piss out of your genitalia like your kind always do. Or swallow some chewed-up, spit soaked food after putting it in that hole in your face. Damn, you looked like you popped out of a distended vagina.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

BREAKING: Palin revealed as Democratic plant

Picture from Newsweek's "Stumper" blog via slinkerwink on DailyKos

Yes, those do appear to be donkeys, the symbol of the Democratic party, on Palin's scarf. Republicans are already peeved that $150,000 of party money was spent on Palin's wardrobe and makeup (possibly illegally). I wonder how mad they'll be if they found out that their money was spent on Democratic fashion accessories.

Of course, given Palin's approval ratings, they may be calling her a Democrat deliberately before too long.

Daily Show on latest Republican insanity

One of the better segments in recent memory:


Question: If I'm not a "real American", does that mean I don't have to pay taxes?

More segments from the same show linked to from here.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

McCain supporters denounce Obama slime peddlers



Here's a great video: There's a guy at a McCain-Palin event yelling about how Obama is a Muslim and a Socialist. He has bumper stickers that associate Obama's name with the Islamic crescent symbol and the Soviet hammer and sickle. The McCain supporters who are there denounce the guy and his associates, and an official representative of the McCain campaign explicitly disowns him. The McCain supporters, some of whom are Muslim and some of whom identify as Christian conservatives are quite upset with the bumper sticker people, and get them to leave. (HT: The Confabulum, a site where a number of next-generation conservatives gather).

More like that please! And I want to be hearing it from McCain and Palin themselves. If they showed the same character that their supporters in this video showed, it would raise them in my estimation a great deal. By all indications, they're going to lose, but they can still stir up a lot of trouble that could result in people getting hurt. For the good of the country, put these insinuations about Obama definitively to rest.

I'm not optimistic that the McCain campaign will do this. And even if they did, it wouldn't make up for all the slime they pushed so far. But it might let them salvage some shred of dignity. And it would be good for our country.

Airport Security Theater

The stupidity of our airport security charade has been a pet issue of mine for quite some time. This article by Jeffrey Goldberg in The Atlantic illustrates just how pathetic our system is. Here's how to get on a plane even if you're on the terrorist watch list:

“The goal is to make sure that this ID triangle represents one person,” he explained. “Here’s how you get around it. Let’s assume you’re a terrorist and you believe your name is on the watch list.” It’s easy for a terrorist to check whether the government has cottoned on to his existence, Schnei­er said; he simply has to submit his name online to the new, privately run CLEAR program, which is meant to fast-pass approved travelers through security. If the terrorist is rejected, then he knows he’s on the watch list.

To slip through the only check against the no-fly list, the terrorist uses a stolen credit card to buy a ticket under a fake name. “Then you print a fake boarding pass with your real name on it and go to the airport. You give your real ID, and the fake boarding pass with your real name on it, to security. They’re checking the documents against each other. They’re not checking your name against the no-fly list—that was done on the airline’s computers. Once you’re through security, you rip up the fake boarding pass, and use the real boarding pass that has the name from the stolen credit card. Then you board the plane, because they’re not checking your name against your ID at boarding.”

What if you don’t know how to steal a credit card?

“Then you’re a stupid terrorist and the government will catch you,” he said.

What if you don’t know how to download a PDF of an actual boarding pass and alter it on a home computer?

“Then you’re a stupid terrorist and the government will catch you.”

Read the whole thing. Here's another doozy: apparently you can bring any amount of liquid onto a plane, as long as it's in a bottle labeled "saline solution".

Oregon Trail forever, dude

Here's a fun nostalgia trip for some of my readers:

The Top 10 Most Influential Educational Video Games from the 1980s

An early version of Oregon Trail that my school had was written in Applesoft BASIC. This was very fun, because Grishnash and I were quite proficient in Applesoft BASIC back in our elementary school days. This meant that we could hack it and make it say naughty things to the player. Then the teacher found out Oregon Trail had been vandalized. Naturally, she asked Grishnash and I, the most knowledgeable computer geeks in the class, if we could fix it. Of course we obliged. Looking back, I suspect our teacher new we were the original defacers, but we never really got in trouble for it because we were otherwise pretty well behaved.

Toddler blogging: Quinn in the corn dive

Monday, October 20, 2008

A simple way to look at the electoral vote race

From Bowers at Open Left:

This means that the easiest way to understand the presidential campaign right now is to look at polling from only those seven states. If McCain sweeps, then he wins. If Obama prevents the McCain sweep, then he wins. Here are the latest polls from those seven states, all of the polls having the majority of their interviews conducted over the past seven days:

Victory Chart
Obama needs one of these states to win it all
State EV's Obama
McCain
Margin # Polls
Colorado 9 50.5% 46.0% +4.5% 2
Florida 27 48.2% 44.8% +3.4% 6
Missouri 11 48.0% 46.7% +1.3% 3
Nevada 5 49.5% 45.5% +4.0% 2
North Carolina 15 48.3% 44.7% +3.6% 3
Ohio 20 48.8% 45.5% +3.3% 4
Virginia 13 52.0% 43.3% +8.7% 3

Of course this is an over-simplification: Other states that seem "safe" one way or the other could shift, rendering obsolete this way of looking at the race. But right now, this is a pretty good way of depicting just how hard a job McCain is going to have. Obama has many paths to victory, and enough money and resources to pursue a lot of them vigorously. McCain does not.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Colin Powell endorses Obama

On Meet the Press this morning, Powell is endorsing Obama. Reading blogs: it's like watching the news 2 days early. I'm happy for Obama to get this endorsement, but as I said earlier I'm rather annoyed that everyone thinks so highly of Powell. He lied us into war as much as anyone else in the Bush administration. The fact that he supposedly did so reluctantly or with reservations or whatever ultimately matters little. Indeed, the excuses people make for Powell are similar to the excuses people have been making for McCain recently.

My take on the state of the race

OK, here's my take on things: despite the national polls tightening a point or two in recent days, Obama is still in a very good position and almost certain to win. Basically, Obama has a 4-5 point lead, and this has been steady for a long time. Also, the way voters are distributed means that Obama's electoral college position is slightly better than his popular vote situation. That means that that even if McCain claws his way back to 50-50 or slightly better, Obama will likely still win the the electoral college.

If you want to play around with individual electoral college scenarios, tools like this one or this one are useful. I played with it today, and it really drives home what a difficult position McCain is in.

None of this is reason for complacency: nobody knows how this election will turn out, and polls have been spectacularly wrong before. And we still have over 2 weeks to go. And the bigger Obama's victory, the more of a mandate he'll have and the longer his coattails will be. Assuming Obama wins, there will be a fringe of people who are going to claim he did so by fraud. The bigger Obama's win, the more absurd these people will sound.

The McCain campaign is decending into the gutter with massive amounts of Robocalls (which Ambinder claims usually aren't that effective). But Obama has more than enough money to fight back. There's going to be a lot of ugliness. McCain's supporters have been recorded saying some horrible things lately:



And here's Minnesota Congressperson Michelle Bachman ranting about how Obama is anti-American:



But I like what Ta-Nehisi Coates says about this kind of thing:
I'll simply add that Bachmann makes me proud to be an American--proud and extremely thankful. Here's the thing, in other countries, many of which are dear to my heart, people like Bachmann don't simply go on television and rant, they have very large guns and friends with very large guys. The same hateful jingoism you see running through the following screed, is the exact same jingoism that leads to massacres in other parts of the globe.

Fortunately we live in a nation of laws and relative sanity, which allows Bachmann to rant her heart out and me to laugh at her while I prepare dinner. Yes I know, don't laugh to hard, son. We have our own history and we have to stay on guard. But still we've gotten better.
In the long term, I think it's a good thing that some of this ugliness is being revealed. We still have a lot of work to do to bridge the divides in our society.

Anyway, back it kicking ass in the upcoming election: It would be awesome if Democrats could get huge majorities in the House and Senate. Getting a filibuster proof majority in the Senate would prevent a lot of obstructionism, and if Democrats got enough seats to do it without Joe Lieberman that would be even more awesome. (Intrade currently lists a 9% chance of Democrats getting 61 seats in the Senate. I actually own some of those contracts: it's a longshot but I think there's a good chance this could be a huge wave election. Note that the price of the McCain futures on Intrade are being manipulated by some sucker who is willing to lose thousands of dollars to make McCain look slightly better).

I really hope Proposition 8 (stripping marriage rights from same-sex couples) in California goes down.

McCain thinks America is being taken over by fake people

The latest doozy from the McCain campaign is this: one of McCain's top surrogates, Nancy Pfotenhauer, claimed that northern Virginia (close to Washington DC) is not real Virginia. Even when the reporter invited her to retract that statement, she stuck with it:



This has led to a good deal of mockery from the lefty blogs, including this from tremayne on Open Left:

Barack Obama has surged into the lead in the superficial parts of the United States. For example, he is solidly ahead along the Pacific coast which is comprised of newer "fancy" states. Obama is also ahead in the phony Great Lakes states and the equally inauthentic states of the Northeast. Not surprisingly, Obama is popular in the D.C. area and in much of Virginia.

In real Virginia, however, John McCain is dominant. McCain is authentic and naturally his message resonates with real Americans. Other parts of real America include: Alabama, Mississippi, Kentucky (well most of it), Tennessee, South Carolina and the gulf coast states. In fact, there's a whole stack of genuine states above Texas extending vertically all the way to North Dakota (where things get iffy). And of course Idaho, Utah and Wyoming have almost no fake people in them.

Unfortunately for McCain the courts have consistently ruled that superficial people have almost as much a right to vote as the authentic ones. And right now the authentic people appear to be outnumbered.

And this from Jed L on DailyKos:

Saturday toddler blogging

Saturday, October 18, 2008

McCain To Suspend Campaign In Order to Rescue Campaign - Opinions You Should Have

http://tomburka.com/archives2/2008/10/mccain-to-suspe.php


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

Open Left:: A Note About Colin Powell...

http://www.openleft.com/showDiary.do?diaryId=9182

The lionization of Powell really annoys me. I'm glad Obama might
benefit from his endorsement, but I don't like the fact that Obama
might associate himself with the guy who more than anyone else, used
his credibility to lie us into war.

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

Bush Tours America To Survey Damage Caused By His Disastrous Presidency

Friday, October 17, 2008

McCain Loses Hastily Convened Fourth Presidential Debate With Lifesize Cardboard Obama | DagBlog.com

http://dagblog.com/humor-satire/mccain-loses-hastily-convened-fourth-presidential-debate-lifesize-cardboard-obama


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

Obama and McCain do comedy

Here's Obama at the Alfred E. Smith memorial charity dinner. He's pretty funny:

And, to be fair, here's McCain at the same event. He's pretty funny, too:

They do as good a job as any of the comedians.

Election night: ratings disaster

News networks in 2000 and 2004 were spoiled: a very close race kept viewers glued to their TVs late into the evening. But what if it's a blowout? Networks want to avoid depressing turnout by calling an election before most people have had a chance to vote. But it's very possible that by 7pm eastern time it will be obvious that Obama will become president. How will networks handle this? The Politico has a somewhat interesting article on the subject.

If the debates were an HBO series

Term of the Day: "tire swinging", "in the tire swing"

Here's one I'd seen around a bit, and I had no idea what it meant: "in the tire swing". Here's a definition:

A media figure biased in favor of McCain is said to be "in the tire swing" or "tire swinging" for McCain. Here are examples from TPM and Yglesias. Usually this label is applied by liberals when a media figure says that McCain's anger, false attacks, or gob-smackingly stupid vice-presidential nominations aren't "the real McCain". Then the pundit waxes lyrical about McCain's alleged integrity, character, and abhorrence for smear tacticts; postulating confidently that they know the real good McCain is somewhere in there, deep down inside, locked away in the depths of his heart. Or maybe the real, virtuous McCain is being held hostage by his evil, smear-mongering campaign manager who just won't let him be who he truly is.

This annoys the crap out of us liberals, who point out that McCain should be held responsible for his actions, and that if his campaign manager is so evil he could fire him and get a new one, and that opinion makers should get off the tire swing and stop making excuses for McCain.

Origin: There was a BBQ at McCain's ranch where he charmed the media with his grilling. Several reporters were seen having fun in the tire swing. Many liberals felt it was inappropriate for media figures to get so chummy with someone who they were covering. So "in the tire swing" came to mean "inappropriately chummy with McCain, and thus prone to make excuses for him when he did something bad or failed". McCain's daughter made a YouTube video of the event that originated this phrase:


Note: I love how in this video, that huge Sedona house is called a "cabin". Note that when we rich folk say "cabin", we usually mean "multi-bedroom luxury vacation house in a picturesque rural setting". This euphemistic use of the word "cabin" is something that I have in common with the McCains. I didn't realize how silly it was until I first described my family's "cabin" to my wife. She thought it was hilarious that I would describe such a structure as a "cabin". But it was the common term among our social set, so it never struck me as weird.

The 2008 presidential campaign in one image

Thank you, Reuters. This is the sort of image where you're tempted to think up some snarky caption. But is that even necessary here?

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Palin isolation watch

From Sullivan:
Factoid of The Day:

Joe the Plumber has now had more press conferences than Sarah Palin.
You could do a whole series on"people who are more accessible to reporters than Sarah Palin".

"I should have a choice about this"


Transcript:
I was raped. And then I got pregnant. Sarah Palin believes that the Government should be able to force me to carry the pregnancy to term.

Sarah Palin believes that the Government should make that choice, not me.

Governor Palin, I didn't have a choice about being raped. But I should have a choice about this.
(via)

RSS rocks

I just set up my RSS reader using Google's reader app. I don't know why I didn't do this earlier. It's especially useful for the iPhone, which is pretty slow at websurfing. Basically, an RSS reader lets you "subscribe" to as many blogs as you want, and puts all of their posts in one place. So you don't have to surf over to each blog individually, and download all the ads and formatting. I do miss the individual look of each blog: DailyKos isn't the same without all the orange, I expect Digby to have a yellow background, Atrios' should be on pale blue, etc. But the efficiency is well worth it.

McCain dumps Palin for Joe the Plumber!

Jeff Seeman on DailyKos came up with the headline. Posters like the one above can be made at motivationalbuck.com.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Fiscal crisis vs. recession

  1. A fiscal crisis is when the government is too much in debt. The solution is for the government to increase revenue by raising taxes or to reduce spending.
  2. A recession is where there is a general slowdown of economic activity. Generally, the solution is for the government to spend money or lower taxes in such a way as to get economic activity going again.
McCain should learn the difference. Yes, we have too much debt, thanks to Bush and his wars and irresponsible spending by Congress (which was Republican for most of the time in question, though Democrats didn't do enough to stop it). But that's not the immediate potential disaster. The potential disaster is a painful world-wide recession.

(This is only part of the picture: the reason there's looming recession is that there's a credit crisis which was triggered by a solvency crisis which was triggered by a bunch of bets going bad because a bunch of assets lost their value (and people don't know by how much) which was triggered by a bunch of people getting their houses foreclosed on which was triggered by the popping of the housing bubble.)

Anyway, when the threat of recession looms, the last thing you want to do is McCain's proposed spending freeze. That just makes things worse, possibly turning a recession into a depression. That's what Hoover did in the early 20th century, and the results were very very bad. (I'm not sure how much Hoover is actually responsible, but he's come to represent "bad response to recession" in economic folklore.)

The idea is that when times are bad, the government should borrow and spend to stimulate the economy (and do so in a way that actually stimulates the economy, rather than enriching one's crony's or engaging in occupations that have little intrinsic benefit). When times are good, the debt should be paid off.

The problem is that when times were better in 2000-2008, Bush and Congress borrowed a lot of money anyway and spent it in ways that weren't particularly beneficial to the economy. That gives us less freedom to spend our way out of the current looming disaster. Yet another reason why Bush and the Republicans sucked, and the Democrats needed to do a better job of opposing them.

Quote of the day

Slacktivist:
The Misplaced Condescension of the Stupid -- Band name, album title or three-volume comprehensive biography of the 43rd president? You choose.

Monday, October 13, 2008

McCain campaign threat level

Don't get your polling info from the mainstream media

UPDATE: Apparently, the Washington Post changed their map because of bloggers calling them out on this. (Be sure to refresh the WaPo link or you'll get the old map.) Bloggers rock!

We're getting some real weirdness from the mainstream media in how they're reporting the state of this election. Check out the idiocy on washingtonpost.com. As of this post:
  • They have Michigan listed as a "battleground state", even though Obama is ahead by 8.2% and McCain has publicly given up contesting the state.
  • On the other hand, West Virginia is listed as "leaning Republican" even though McCain is only ahead by 2.2% and Obama is fighting hard there.
  • Pennsylvania is listed as a "battleground state" even though they have Obama up by 13.8%
Chris Bowers did a similar and more extensive analysis here.

Bottom line is that all the independent sites are predicting an Obama victory, and many mainstream sites are fudging things to keep Obama's electoral vote count under the 270 needed to win. Why might this be? Bowers:
Maybe they are afraid of being accused of pro-Obama bias (probably). Maybe they are just biased toward McCain (possibly). Maybe they just suck at electoral forecasting (definitely). Maybe they are invested in a close campaign (absolutely). Whatever it is, you would be well served to never, ever listen to big media for election forecasts and horserace information. They just don't have it. Stick to the small media independent websites, since we pretty only exist because the big media websites suck so bad at this stuff. So much information is publicly available now that a few nerds obsessed with poll numbers are much better sources for election information than you will every get from big media. The lack of depth in horserace coverage on major news websites is actually how I discovered the blogosphere myself back in 2002.
I'm getting my forecasting information from:
All of these heavily favor Obama at the moment.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Maximiznig your political dollar/effort

Sam Wang at the Princeton Election Consortium advises his readers (both Democratic and Republican) who want affect political outcomes to ignore the presidential race. Basically, Obama is so far ahead that your small contribution (whether in time or money) his highly unlikely to make a difference. But there are several senate races that are very close, and contributions there could very well sway things one way or the other.

I agree and will be making my last few contributions guided by this.

I would add that California's Proposition 8, banning gay marriage, is another such close opportunity.

Quote of the Day

From Digby via Atrios:
Maybe we should start educating people to see politicians the way they see athletes. They certainly may have lots of opinions about what a team should do. But even the most egotistical drunk screaming obscenities from the stands doesn't truly believe that he's a better hitter than Manny Ramirez or that the team should hire a bunch of guys off the streets to play in the outfield. They have more respect for the game than that. It would be nice if citizenship required as much respect for the country.

Candidates as Star Wars characters

Is this developing into a LOLCat subgenre? I just got this from an email:

For the trains version, see here.

Palin: abused power

New York Times:
Gov. Sarah Palin abused the powers of her office by pressuring subordinates to try to get her former brother-in-law, a state trooper, fired, an investigation by the Alaska Legislature has concluded. She was within her right, however, to dismiss her public safety commissioner, the trooper’s boss, the inquiry found.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Be thankful for small blessings

Krugman:
On a separate note, one good thing is that there haven’t been any reports of people on Wall Street jumping out of windows. That’s because the windows in modern office buildings don’t open.

Solution to the housing crisis: more people!

This, from Yglesias, may have some sense to it:
I’m fairly certain this won’t be adopted, but it does seem right to say that if we encouraged more immigration we could bolster the housing market. In essence, the price boom led to a construction boom which led to the bursting of the bubble. Fundamentally, with only so many families in the country, there’s no need for all the houses we have. The housing bust has caused a construction bust, so over time population growth will eat up the supply overhang. But that could happen more quickly if population growth was faster — i.e., more immigrants. At a minimum, if we stopped trying to drive illegals out of the country and instead put them on a path to citizenship, that would help.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Gulag America: We're all POWs now

Here's McCain addressing "my fellow prisoners"...

All your hummus are belong to us

Lebanon is to "hummus" what France is to Champagne, or at least that's what a group of Lebanese businessfolk want:
Middle East peace negotiators may need to be careful what they serve with their pita next time they break bread.

Lebanese businessmen are making a legal claim that would designate hummus as traditional to Lebanon. That would make it easier for them to sue to prevent companies in Israel and other nations from marketing the popular chickpea-and-olive-oil spread as their own.

The Association of Lebanese Industrialists wants the European Union to declare hummus and other culinary specialties as traditional Lebanese dishes. The menu of potential targets also includes arak, the anise-flavored alcoholic drink, and tabouleh, a mixture of bulgur, parsley, mint and other herbs.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Not even racism can stop Obama in this climate

This little anecdote from Politico's Ben Smith has been making the rounds on the blogs:

An Obama supporter, who canvassed for the candidate in the working-class, white Philadelphia neighborhood of Fishtown recently, sends over an account that, in various forms, I've heard a lot in recent weeks.

"What's crazy is this," he writes. "I was blown away by the outright racism, but these folks are f***ing undecided. They would call him a n----r and mention how they don't know what to do because of the economy."

Which reminds me of this recent quote from Ta-Nehisi Coates:
Racism is a luxury that, at this point, a lot of white voters can ill-afford. I think a crucial number of them know that.

McCain limbo: How low can he go?

This video from TPMtv is a great mash-up of McCain saying how he won't run a negative campaign, interspersed with his most scurrilous attacks on Obama:

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Emotiv EPOC controlling a car, bending a spoon

Some folks on Prototype This on the Discovery Channel hooked the Emotiv EPOC up to a car, allowing the tester to control some of the functions of the car with his mind. (I would not recommend doing that at home, especially since our product is still in beta.) He could shift the car into drive by mentally "pushing" an orange cube on the screen. They also rigged it so if his "aggro" (probably a measure similar to arousal, but I'm not exactly sure what detection they were using) increased to a certain level, it would shift back into neutral. This was part of their prototype anti-road rage system.

Such a system could certainly work, but I could picture numerous other events that might produce a similar arousal reaction: a song on the radio, a sudden change in driving conditions, etc. In order to differentiate road rage from other kinds of arousal, it might be useful to look at some other measures as well: jaw tension, facial expression, etc. Also, I'm not sure shifting the car into neutral is a good road-rage countermeasure. Maybe putting on soothing music and dispensing a cup of chamomille tea would be more effective.

UPDATE: The same folks use the EPOC to do the proverbial "bending a spoon with your mind" trick:

The ugliness is coming out

As the reality of McCain's impending loss sinks in, I think we're going to see some very ugly stuff coming out. It's already started:

So we have McCain today getting his crowd riled up asking who Barack Obama is and then apparently giving a wink and a nod when one member of the crowd screams out "terrorist."

And later we have Sarah Palin with the same mob racket, getting members of the crowd to yell out "kill him", though it's not clear whether the call for murder was for Bill Ayers or Barack Obama. It didn't seem to matter.

and:
Pennsylvania GOP calls Obama "a terrorist's best friend."
and:
Worse, Palin's routine attacks on the media have begun to spill into ugliness. In Clearwater, arriving reporters were greeted with shouts and taunts by the crowd of about 3,000. Palin then went on to blame Katie Couric's questions for her "less-than-successful interview with kinda mainstream media." At that, Palin supporters turned on reporters in the press area, waving thunder sticks and shouting abuse. Others hurled obscenities at a camera crew. One Palin supporter shouted a racial epithet at an African American sound man for a network and told him, "Sit down, boy."
Dealing with this seething hatred is not going to be easy. But I think the fact that McCain and Palin are going there presents a great opportunity: if they are defeated soundly, it will do much to discredit this kind of politics. The Rove strategy was demographically doomed in the medium term (even Rove knew that), but I'm glad it's not working in the short term either.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Credit Default Swaps explained

Here's the best explanation yet I've heard of what a "credit default swap" is. These instruments are central to the current financial crisis. The explanation starts at about 4:30 into this 60 Minutes clip:


(HT: Balloon Juice) Basically, a credit default swap is an insurance policy that's supposed to pay you money if a certain security or institution becomes worthless. But because it's not called insurance, it isn't regulated, so there are no rules about how much money you have to have on hand to pay out. So it's no surprise that when things went sour and these credit default swaps were called in, there wasn't enough money to pay out and firms went under.

Obama unleashes the McCain-Keating association


The Obama campaign has obviously had this up their sleeves for quite some time. The have a website and everything (though it doesn't seem to display correctly on Firefox--the left edge is cut off). Of course, it's old news, but it hasn't really gotten a lot of attention. Which is kind of funny, given the parallels with the current financial crisis. Many people were wondering why Obama wasn't hitting harder on this. It turns out they had this ready to go, and were just waiting for McCain to start going negative before unleashing it.

Lefty blogs are most pleased.

I wonder what else David Plouffe (Obama's campaign manager) has in his bag of tricks.

Quinn apple picking

From last weekend:

Obama's lead: some historical perspective

Chris Bowers of Open Left compiled this list of polling margins, so you can put Obama's current lead in some historical perspective:
18.2%: Ronald Reagan 1984
10.7%: House Democrats 1982
9.7%: Ronald Reagan 1980
8.51%: Bill Clinton 1996

8.50%: Obama September 5th
8.3%: Obama October 4th
7.9%: House Democrats 2006
7.8%: Obama October 3rd
7.7%: George H. W. Bush 1988
7.0%: Obama October 2nd
6.3%: Obama October 1st
5.9%: House Republicans 1994
5.6%: Bill Clinton 1992

5.5%: Obama September 27th
5.0%: Obama September 26th
4.6%: House Republicans 2002
3.8%: Obama September 25th
The October attack war is starting up, and that may shake things up. But Obama has more ammunition (both financially and in terms of material to use) than McCain does, so I don't see how McCain can climb out of his current ditch. Of course, a lot can happen in the remaining days.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Everyone is mocking Rich Lowry

Practically every blog I read has mocked Rich Lowry for making the following statement about Palin:
I'm sure I'm not the only male in America who, when Palin dropped her first wink, sat up a little straighter on the couch and said, "Hey, I think she just winked at me." And her smile. By the end, when she clearly knew she was doing well, it was so sparkling it was almost mesmerizing. It sent little starbursts through the screen and ricocheting around the living rooms of America. This is a quality that can't be learned; it's either something you have or you don't, and man, she's got it.
I'm a little late piling on, but it is pretty funny.

One thing that the McCain campaign has been unable to do is find a consistent attack message against Obama. They tried to mock him for being inexperienced and for relying too much on charisma. Then they pick Sarah Palin as vice president. And her "charisma" doesn't seem to be what most voters want right now, if recent polling on the debate is to be believed.

I think the fundamentals of this election are strongly against McCain: in difficult economic times, the incumbent party often loses. And Bush is extremely unpopular, so people are leaning to the other party. But McCain's campaign certainly hasn't helped their candidates chances. Once this is over, it'll be interesting to hear the inside dirt on what was going on.

Palin: the bad movie

In an effort to prevent their reality from lapping our satire, I offer this:

Quote of the Day

...it seems clear to me that the ever-declining standards that conservatives have set for what makes a candidate acceptable to them and the declining quality of the political leadership they have received are very closely related.

One of Larison's commenters adds:
Also, this is what happens when you use fake anti-elitism as a central tenet of your politics for long enough that you and your base actually start to believe in its implications: you get politicians who are utterly unexceptional and severely underqualified.

Princeton Election Consortium showing Obama way ahead

The Princeton Election Consortium electoral college snapshot shows Obama winning with almost complete certainty if the election were held today. Note that this site has a different methodology than others I use (like FiveThirtyEight.com or Intrade). It doesn't try to make a prediction about election day in November. Rather, it is a snapshot of where things currently stand. (HT: Paul Rosenburg on Open Left)

Training for the presidency

From Kdoug on DailyKos:

Saturday, October 04, 2008

2001: A Retro Web Odyssey

Sure, if you Google "Zachary Drake" today you get all sorts of hits. But what was my web presence back in 2001? Well, in honor of Google's 10th anniversary, they are putting their oldest available index (Jan 2001) online. I only show up three times: once for a project I did at the Army High Performance Computing Research Center (yeah, I interned for the military industrial complex), once on the page of my sketch comedy group in college, and one mention in my college newspaper. The other Zachary Drakes aren't me. The most prominent "Zachary Drake" at the time was a sketch of a fantasy character by one Nicholas Schaffner, who I hope will forgive me for stealing it and reproducing it here:

image copyright Nicholas Schaffner


Go ahead and retro Google yourself. Or other people.

Guess who had no web presence in 2001? Sarah Palin. (HT: Feministing)

Friday, October 03, 2008

Great Palin sign

Well, I only got to see a little of the debate, then hear a little more of it, before Quinn meltdown took me away. Non-FOX News Focus groups seem to give it to Biden, as do several of the pundits I read, though the pundits do so by a narrower margin. The "drop Palin from the ticket" contract at Intrade fell sharply, down to about 5%, so that bet of mine is worth less now. She didn't fall on her face apparently. I didn't see enough to give a good critique of the whole thing. She seemed to be quite the Republican talking point machine. But I was not favorably disposed to her.

In lieu of debate analysis, I give you this anti-Palin sign from Mudflats via Progressive Gold:

Out of Office auto-reply message for those who are always connected

Now that I have an iPhone, I'll probably have to change my out of office auto reply to something like this:
I am currently out of the office. Although modern communication devices render me perfectly able to read the email you just sent, I'm going to use my travel as an excuse to ignore it and blow you off. You, in turn, are free to use my physical absence as an excuse for procrastinating on whatever action item requires my input.

Blog milestone: 100,000 visitors

According to Sitemeter Internal Monologue passed 100,000 visitors a few days ago. Yeah, most of them are people stumbling in on random Google searches or people looking for monologues, but hey, a visitor is a visitor. I hope I've made a modest contribution to the collective intelligence of the hivemind with my modest scribblings here.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

CIO's Richard Trumka takes on racism and endorses Obama


A rousing speech in support of Obama and directly taking on racism. I'm getting excited about what Obama might be able to do. But of course if we spend $700 billion more dollars on the bailout, he might not have the resources for many of his plans. Of course, a bad recession could crimp his plans even more.

Obama is kicking ass

A lot can change in a short period of time. And things could still go either way. And pollsters have been spectacularly wrong. But right now, it looks like Obama is kicking McCain's butt. My most recent favorite place to check out the status of the elections is FiveThirtyEight.com. It's run by Nate silver, a baseball statistics nut who decided to take what he learned doing baseball stats and apply it to electoral politics.

I think I'm against the bailout in its current form

I think, after reading a lot of stuff, that I'm against the $700 billion bailout. Mainly because as I understand it, the plan doesn't actually tell us what Paulson is going to do with the money exactly. Presumably he'll buy mortgage-backed securities from distressed institutions. But how much will he pay for them? Market value? But if he's just going to pay market value, why do we need government intervention? Presumably he's going to pay more than the currently frozen market would. But how much more? How will that price be determined? And what will the taxpayer get in return? An equity stake? How much of an equity stake?

I do think something needs to be done, as some kinds of credit markets are seizing up. Apparently California is having trouble borrowing money right now. (I heard this on NPR on the way home.) I'd accept a smaller version of the Paulson plan, say $50 billion, to get things started, to be followed by a better thought-out bill by the new congress and president (hopefully Obama, the polls are swinging his way these days).

This panel of Princeton economists, including Paul Krugman, is a good background piece. It's over an hour, but I feel I can discuss this much more intelligently now: