Here's another Internet database: The Internet Speculative Fiction Database.
Thursday, December 25, 2008
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
Mugging suspect shot outside Orlando Fashion Square
A woman got off a bus near the Fashion Square Mall and was accosted by three men who tried to mug her. One of them had a gun. A passerby saw what was happening and pulled his own concealed weapon. Gunfire ensued, one of the muggers got shot, and the other two eventually got away. Truly, my heart is warmed!
Perhaps this next story should be filed under Festivus, as grievances were definitely aired.
Angry wife jailed after biting husband's you-know-what
I've just got to quote this one (Emphasis and commentary added):
A 27-year-old Deltona woman told authorities she bit her husband's penis because she didn't want to have sex with him.Peckers everywhere beware!
Charris Bowers was arrested Saturday by a Volusia County sheriff's deputy, accused of misdemeanor battery. A judge set her free Sunday without requiring her to post bail.
Her husband, Delou Bowers, today would not comment.He just kept moaning....
According to a sheriff's office report, the Bowerses had been to a bar Friday night. Delou Bowers told authorities that when they got home, his wife began to perform oral sex on him but then began to bite his penis.Personally, I'm not sure what one should do in this situation, but punching someone in the head when they're clamping down on your manhood doesn't sound like the best idea in the world to me.
He tried to stop her, he told a deputy, but she kept at it. He then began to punch her in the head and pushed her to the floor, and she let go, according to the arrest report.
Charris Bowers gave the officer two versions of what happened. She first said she was sitting on the couch when her husband walked over and put his penis in her mouth, according to the report.It's great to be a cop!
"She then bit it to get him away from her," the report said.
She later said her husband walked over with his penis exposed, and she bit it.
Either way, the deputy saw the injury, photographed it then arrested Mrs. Bowers.
ADDED: I highly recommend the comments on the second story. The comments on the first story are somewhat interesting as well. Increasingly the locals seem to feel that we're living in the Old West - the Law is something that comes out of the barrel of a gun. No one with any sense really thinks the police are going to do a goddamned thing. (The Caylee Anthony case is showing just how bad the local law enforcement can be. The guy that found the body had been telling the police where to look for four months! You can lead a cop to the body, but you can't make them investigate.) We just set a new record for homicides in the Orlando/Orage County jurisdiction, breaking a record that was all of two years old! Woohoo!
UPDATE: Another Fesitvus Miracle from the Sunshine State! Above I said that people increasingly feel the need for protecting themselves. Now for this tale of a 91 year-old man with a pair of big brass balls:
91-year-old man saves wife from gunman
A 91-year-old West Orange County man rescued his 90-year-old wife Tuesday afternoon after a home invader put a gun to her head.Comment #3 says it best: "You rock old dude!"
The couple were sitting in the living room of their Lake Stanley Road home at about 4:40 p.m. when two robbers broke in, according to a press statement. The first one held the wife at gunpoint. The second entered shortly afterwards, distracting the gunman.
When the gunman looked away, the elderly man grabbed a .38 caliber revolver hidden beneath a nearby sofa cushion and fired.
Both suspects fled. The senior citizen and his wife were uninjured.
No suspects were arrested.
Copyright © 2008, Orlando Sentinel
... that's completely worthless. From CNN & CareerBuilder.com:
- Suck up to the boss, no matter how miserable a human being he is
- Don't give them any excuse to fire you.
That second point also means that you shouldn't do your job too well. That's guaranteed to draw unwanted attention to yourself.
Monday, December 22, 2008
Saturday, December 20, 2008
Tuesday, December 09, 2008
Sunday, December 07, 2008
Tuesday, December 02, 2008
Fortunately, someone else has done the work for me, at least concerning Obama's infrastructure "stimulus" plan.
I've had similar thoughts about Obama's energy program. Maybe I'll crunch the numbers again, if I ever get over my current illness. I'm at twelve days & counting on that front, and have just started taking a third antibiotic, the first two having been only marginally effective.
Thursday, November 27, 2008
Via Drudge, I read a report that British security will be using software to scan the CCTV cameras they have trained on everyone in Britain. Software will single out suspicious behavior, and suspects may have to answer to the police. (The software had originally been tested here in the US. (U!S!A! U!S!A!)
Via Amba, I see a report that the Denver police department will be using brain scans to determine whether or not their officers have racial bias.
Soon they'll be able to watch everyone's every move in an effort to protect society from 'suspicious behavior'. And if someone is suspiciously un-suspicious, they will be able to scan that person's head to figure out what they're really up to - or at the very least, to determine if they have any unpopular 'biases' that may lead to dangerous behavior.
Fun world, huh?
"Paging Jerry Della Femina. Oval Office on Line One."
I can't help but think of the title to Della Femina's book when thinking about Obama's economic team. Well, at least I'm not the only one having some doubts.
Monday, November 24, 2008
Charlie Munger (Warren Buffet's long-time financial partner) gave an interesting talk several years back entitled "Academic Economics: Strengths and Faults After Considering Interdisciplinary Needs". Here's a link to the transcript. Some of Munger's ideas have really stuck with me, especially the stuff he discussed with George Schultz:
Another example of not thinking through the consequences of the consequences is the standard reaction in economics to Ricardo’s law of comparative advantage giving benefit on both sides of trade. Ricardo came up with a wonderful, non-obvious explanation that was so powerful that people were charmed with it, and they still are, because it’s a very useful idea. Everybody in economics understands that comparative advantage is a big deal, when one considers first order advantages in trade from the Ricardo effect. But suppose you’ve got a very talented ethnic group, like the Chinese, and they’re very poor and backward, and you’re an advanced nation, and you create free trade with China, and it goes on for a long time.Mostly I am highlighting this so I don't have to keep looking for the talk every time I want to link to it. That seems as good a reason for a blog post as any.
Now let’s follow and second and third order consequences: You are more prosperous than you would have been if you hadn’t traded with China in terms of average well-being in the United States, right? Ricardo proved it. But which nation is going to be growing faster in economic terms? It’s obviously China. They’re absorbing all the modern technology of the world through this great facilitator in free trade, and, like the Asian Tigers have proved, they will get ahead fast. Look at Hong Kong. Look at Taiwan. Look at early Japan. So, you start in a place where you’ve got a weak nation of backward peasants, a billion and a quarter of them, and in the end they’re going to be a much bigger, stronger nation than you are, maybe even having more and better atomic bombs. Well, Ricardo did not prove that that’s a wonderful outcome for the former leading nation. He didn’t try to determine second order and higher order effects.
If you try and talk like this to an economics professor, and I’ve done this three times, they shrink in horror and offense because they don’t like this kind of talk. It really gums up this nice discipline of theirs, which is so much simpler when you ignore second and third order consequences.
The best answer I ever got on that subject – in three tries – was from George Schultz. He said, "Charlie, the way I figure it is if we stop trading with China, the other advanced nations will do it anyway, and we wouldn’t stop the ascent of China compared to us, and we’d lose the Ricardo-diagnosed advantages of trade." Which is obviously correct. And I said, "Well George, you’ve just invented a new form of the tragedy of the commons. You’re locked in this system and you can’t fix it. You’re going to go to a tragic hell in a handbasket, if going to hell involves being once the great leader of the world and finally going to the shallows in terms of leadership." And he said, "Charlie, I do not want to think about this." I think he’s wise. He’s even older than I am, and maybe I should learn from him.
In particular I'm reminded of second and third order consequences when two articles about the bailouts sent to me by a friend:
General Motors to Invest $1 Billion in Brazil Operations -- Money to Come from U.S. Rescue Program
Bill Richardson, GM, Citibank: Where is the Bail-Out Debate on Offshoring Middle Class Jobs Overseas?
There are a lot of assumptions that aren't being questioned right now that SHOULD be questioned. If I have time I will try to point to a few of them in coming days. (Oddly enough, it seems like I have less free time now that I'm unemployed than when I was employed.)
Friday, November 21, 2008
The piracy happening along the coast of Somalia is a failure of American government, an inattention to detail that will eventually end us.
Sometime during WWII, the USA became the greatest naval power on the planet. So keeping the seas free and open is our responsibility, both as the hegemon and because of our commitment to free trade. Personally I think we should send a US Naval Tsk Force (complete with a sufficiently large contingent of Marines) to the coast of Africa to kick ass and take names. We've done it before, and back then we didn't have anywhere near the power projection capabilities we do now. Billions for defense, not one penny for tribute or ransom.
Note: We should settle for nothing less than a decisive victory. All we need to do is kill the pirates and sink their ships. NO MORE NATION BUILDING!
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
End the "Don't ask, don't tell" law. I knew Bill Clinton didn't have any guts when he caved on this issue early in his Presidency. Perhaps we can get one good thing out of the next crop.
Monday, November 17, 2008
The reason Obama wants to 'appoint' Hillary is so that he has an excuse to dig up and publicize dirt on Bill Clinton. From the New York Times:
President-elect Barack Obama’s advisers have begun reviewing former President Bill Clinton’s finances and activities to see whether they would preclude the appointment of his wife, Hillary Rodham Clinton, as secretary of state, Democrats close to the situation said Sunday.
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
It turns out that McCain's Presidential campaign will get the full screwing from the FEC, while Obama, who illegally raised tens, if not hundreds, of millions of dollars, won't be investigated at all. To the victor belong the spoils!
Expect Obama to raise hundreds of millions of dollars for his reelection campaign by the end of 2009 - he may even raise some of it honestly! Expect that some of THAT will be used to repeal the the XXII Amendment, so that Obama can rule in perpetuity. Once the Chicago Machine has control of the federal government they won't ever allow another free election in this country. The Era of Big Man Politics in the USA has begun.
Dems are attempting to steal another election, this time in Minnesota. Anyone want to bet on whether or not Obama's Justice Department investigates?
The media shows their pro-Obama bias again, this time in a headline. Someone tried to fix it later, but Google's cache caught them. In other news, this is a day that ends in "y".
Finally, why is this news coming out now?
Friday, November 07, 2008
Thursday, November 06, 2008
Ah, heck, yes I do.
I had said that I expected election turnout to be low, and it appears that I was correct. Outside of a couple of subsets of the population, people weren't that excited about these candidates.
On another front, I told 'em so, but they didn't listen. I was the only analyst in the biggest division at the company that predicted this, and they didn't listen. Ha, ha, HA.
OR: Politics, Prisoners & Iterated Games
I'll try to make this brief. [Much later: HA!] Barack Obama won the Presidency last Tuesday, and now the opposition has to decide how to react to him. Victor David Hanson offers a well considered and even tempered point of view:
It seems to me that conservatives have a golden opportunity to offer criticism and advice in a manner that many liberals did not during the last eight years. By that I mean I hope there are no conservative versions of the Nicholson Baker Knopf-published ‘novel’ Checkpoint, the creepy documentary by Gerald Range, the attempt to name a sewer plant after an American President, or the celebrity outbursts that we have witnessed with the tired refrain of Hitler/Nazi Bush—that all have cheapened political discourse. When I hear a partisan insider like Paul Begala urging at the 11th hour that we now rally around lame-duck Bush in his last few days, I detect a sense of apprehension that no Democrats would wish conservatives to treat Obama as they did Bush for eight years. [H/T: Glenn Reynolds]All very charitable and grown up. Also mostly wrong. For the last eight years, with the exception of about one month, Republicans and conservatives have been getting savaged by Democrats and leftists. No charge has been too scurrilous for these people to pass up, everything from the 9/11 Truthers who think Bush personally planned the 9/11 attacks from his ranch in Crawford, to the more recent attacks on Sarah Palin, which have included attacks on her children and unborn grandchild.
These attacks should not be rewarded by courtesy from the new minority party.
Game theory helps explain the situation. Consider the Prisoner's Dilemma:
[I]magine two criminals arrested under the suspicion of having committed a crime together. However, the police does not have sufficient proof in order to have them convicted. The two prisoners are isolated from each other, and the police visit each of them and offer a deal: the one who offers evidence against the other one will be freed. If none of them accepts the offer, they are in fact cooperating against the police, and both of them will get only a small punishment because of lack of proof. They both gain. However, if one of them betrays the other one, by confessing to the police, the defector will gain more, since he is freed; the one who remained silent, on the other hand, will receive the full punishment, since he did not help the police, and there is sufficient proof. If both betray, both will be punished, but less severely than if they had refused to talk. The dilemma resides in the fact that each prisoner has a choice between only two options, but cannot make a good decision without knowing what the other one will do.Interestingly, if the game is played once, then rational decision makers would always defect. Thus, if both prisoners are rational, they will get a sub-optimal outcome - both will serve time, although for reduced sentences. But if both are irrational, they can co-operate and thus avoid serious punishment. Yes, one can get sub-optimal outcomes even if everyone is a rational actor.
A more interesting case arises from the Iterated Prisoner's Dilemma. In this game, the Prisoner's Dilemma is repeated an indeterminate number of times, with each player having knowledge of at least the previous outcome. Ultimately, if both players NEVER defect, they will achieve the best outcome. However, there is always a temptation to defect. It turns out that one of the best strategies is "Tit-for-Tat" - cooperate on the first round of play, and then repeat whatever your opponent does. Thus, if your opponent defected last round, you defect this round.
There are better strategies, but this one is the best "simple" strategy for the IPD.
Now back to the current situation. This isn't the Iterated Prisoner's Dilemma, but it bears some similarities:
- we're stuck with the other side, and they with us
- the political system has periodic elections, thus iterative
- we have no idea how they will behave (either now, or in some imagined future when they're in the minority)
- but we do know how they have behaved in the past.
But that still leaves us with an iterated game to play. And I suggest that there are a certain amount of set punishments that we dole out to ourselves. Mainly this - everyone feels worse when we have higher levels of vitriol and rancor. If we choose to completely cooperate and the other guys did too, then we could all have nice civil disagreements about policy. But we just played this game, and the other side didn't cooperate. In fact, they went about as far as they could short of armed insurrection. (That may be because our side has all the guns.)
I mentioned earlier that "Tit-for-Tat" is the optimal simple strategy for the IPD. There are better, more complicated strategies. Among them is "Tit-for-Tat with forgiveness". In this strategy, if one player defects, the other player sometimes cooperates the next round anyway. This allows for a recovery from an endless cycle of defections.
We could take a chance on civility, and cooperate this time. However, I don't think that's optimal. For one thing it will require a lot of us to swallow not only our own bile, but to have to mop up the bile of the other side for them, and that just ain't right. Furthermore the Democrats now have a virtual lock on the federal government. There is no reason for them to play nice now, and cooperating on all matters will simply look like rolling over and playing dead. Even couching our disagreements in polite terms will make us look like supplicants begging for scraps.
No, if we have any hope of opposing Obama and the Dems, we have to make a forceful, sharp case. That means a certain level of viciousness. I suggest that we go after them with both bores blazing, with these exceptions
First, leave their strictly personal lives out of it. So, where they trashed the Bush daughters, we never mention Obama's daughters. Where they made fun of Bush's ears (Chimpy BusHitler), we will refrain from mentioning that Obama's ears are also silly. Spouses are a slightly different matter. If the spouse stays out of political affairs, then hands off. If Michelle Obama turns out to be more like Hillary Clinton, then all is fair so long as we follow the rules above. All criticisms of spouses should be strictly about matters that actually pertain to public life. (Actually these rules can apply to grown children who have entered the arena - Biden's lobbyist son, for example.)
Secondly, keep the absolute lunacy to a minimum. Thus, if another terrorist attack occurs on American soil, then we shouldn't accuse Obama of being behind it. Moon-bat-ery should be held in check as much as possible.
But on political matters, hammer them. Call them out for corruption, malfeasance, and bad policy, and be nasty about it. Challenge their philosophy in scathing terms. Be willing to spew some bile. Where tone is concerned, it's not just the least we can do, it's the best we can do.
Good luck, Myron!
ADDED: SI's front page has a REACT that asks, "Rolle's Future: Would you choose football or academics?"
In Rolle's case, it depends on whether or not he gets the Rhodes Scholarship - if he does he should definitely pursue academics. He would be a First Round pick in the NFL draft next spring, so he would be passing up serious money. (He's a third year player at FSU, but won't be back regardless - he graduated in two and a half years with a 3,75 GPA in Pre-Med.) But as he is set on becoming a doctor the money becomes less of a consideration - Rolle will be set if he walks away from athletics permanently, he'll just make his fortune another way. Beyond that, if he takes one year off for his study in England, he can come back for next year's draft, or even wait for a supplemental draft, which might be better for him anyway. He might lose a few spots on draft boards, but shouldn't fall below the second round, which is still good money.
Coincidentally, there are 32 picks in the First Round of the NFL Draft, and 32 Rhodes Scholarships handed out annually so the rewards are comparably rare.
But this is an interesting question for other athletes as well: Should star athletes stay in school to graduate, or should they leave school early to get rich? Each circumstance is different, and each player should make their own choice, but generally I feel that star football players should definitely leave early if they are certain of a good pay-off. Football is a violent sport, and every play can end your career. Passing up the money is usually too big of a risk.
Wednesday, November 05, 2008
I expected that turnout wouldn't be as high as had been predicted. I may be correct. As the totals stand now (see date stamp below) Obama has about 1 million more votes than Bush had in 2004. McCain has about 3 million LESS than Kerry had in 2004. So that's a net loss of 2 million votes from 2004 to 2008.
Other votes cast in 2004 amounted to about 1.2 million votes. I can't find current totals for that, but I doubt those numbers have gone up substantially.
In other words, how is it that some sources are reporting 130 million votes cast when that hasn't shown up in the totals? Over 99% of precincts are reporting, according to the data I can find. Are there really ten million provisional and absentee ballots remaining to be counted?
Aside: Even if the total hits 130 million votes cast, that still isn't that great an increase over 2004 - just a 6.3% increase. Where'd everybody go?
Note that the 64% figure in the linked article can't be correct. According to the FEC, 56.7% of eligible voters cast a ballot in 2004. That was out of an estimated voting age population of 215.7M. For the 64% figure to be correct on 130M votes, the US voting age population would have to be 203.1M. Surely the country hasn't lost over 12.6M voting age citizens in the last four years?
Totals for 2004 can be found here.
Tuesday, November 04, 2008
I was in and out of my polling place in ten minutes today. I went around Noon, and had to stand in a 'line' of three people to get my ballot. I had to pause briefly to get into a booth. Once again I am happy to report that Orange County uses optical scan ballots, which are the best kind.
One other observation is that the poll workers weren't that old in aggregate. Two women looked to be in the 60s, there was a man that looked to be about 55, a woman in her 40s and a couple of women younger than that.
Monday, November 03, 2008
I'm going to hold my nose and vote for McCain. I hate to do it, for reasons stated previously, and I'll probably be sick afterwards. Should McCain win I believe he will be a bad President. Obama will be even worse.
Incidentally, it is trivial to demonstrate that neither man can be a good President. Neither has shown any ability to adjust their policy goals to meet current conditions – that is what the financial crisis has taught us. McCain's inflexibility can be blamed (probably incorrectly) on age, but what's Obama's excuse? Obama’s lack of flexibility shouldn’t surprise though. He has shown remarkably little mental suppleness, as evidenced by his inability to acknowledge that the misnamed Surge worked in Iraq. He decided in 2002 that America must fail in Iraq, and no amount of evidence will convince him otherwise. I expect Obama will fire Petraeus by July 2009.
But that’s not what drove me to vote for McCain - my reasons for doing so are personal, and therefore petty.
Today I drove over to my mother’s house. I do that most days, given my Mom’s health issues and my brother’s cancer. The posts I wrote about the political yard signs were inspired by those drives. But I have not mentioned yard signs in Mom’s neighborhood. That’s because there haven’t been any – until today. As I turned onto Mom’s street this morning I noticed two yard signs, both for Obama. One yard sported the “OBAMA” sign, and the other sported the “CHANGE” sign. (The “CHANGE” signs make me want to pull over and throw pennies at them whenever I see them.)
I actually felt like I had been hit in the gut when I saw them. The “OBAMA” sign was in front of the house that breeds pit bulls for dog fighting. But the “CHANGE” sign, that really got me. It is in front of the house two doors down from Mom’s house. That is where the leader of the gang that invaded Mom’s house in March lived. He doesn’t appear to live there anymore, as his gang isn’t hanging around now. If there’s any justice he’s dead, or at least in jail somewhere. But his family still lives there, as I recognize the cars. I saw “CHANGE” and thought, “Fuck you!” The change I want would see everyone living in that house in jail for aiding and abetting. Everyone living on the street knew that the leader of the home invaders (they struck several houses in the neighborhood, not just Mom’s) lived there, but the police were too goddamned cowardly to do anything about it. (Never trust the police, especially not in a poor neighborhood.) And now they have the goddamned unmitigated gall to call for “CHANGE”? Fuck them, and fuck their candidate. I’m voting for McCain.
In passing I will note that I shouldn’t be shocked at their support for Obama – they also believe in “spreading the wealth around”. Obama – the candidate of dog fighters and home invaders!
Sunday, November 02, 2008
I've changed my mind on the Presidential race. I'm definitely going to vote against Obama. What I haven't decided is whether or not Obama has done the impossible - has he convinced me to vote for McCain? I don't know the answer to that yet.
On the one hand, I disagree with Obama on most everything. But that would be true of any generic Democrat. But the views he discussed in the 2001 interview are anathema to me. (The interview in question was referenced in a prior post.) He values some concept of "social justice" above everything else, including personal liberty. (Wealth can only be redistributed if the state has absolute authority over every person's possessions. Hence there can not be, must not be, any restraints on state power. Hence, no personal liberty.) When I add the political thuggery, the financial cheating, and all the rest, to his political philosophy, I can't help but oppose him. But that doesn't mean an automatic vote for McCain.
Voting for McCain would (again) be rewarding the Republican Party. But not for choosing a good candidate, or even a flawed candidate with problems, but for choosing a terrible candidate. McCain's most redeeming characteristic as a candidate is that he ISN'T Barack Obama. In similar circumstances I have voted for similarly bad candidates. It didn't work out so well. Twice I voted for George W. Bush because the other options (Gore, Kerry) were dreadful. As a result, I encouraged the Republican Party to run liberal big government programs (Medicare Part D, for example) and to practice crony politics (see the career of Tom Delay). The result has not only been a party that lacks any true impulse for small government, but a party that has made such ideas look bad while doing the exact opposite.
By rewarding bad candidates in the past, I have begged for, and received, another lousy candidate. In addition, the party is about to be slaughtered in this election. The party will soon return to permanent minority status, if not complete irrelevancy. If the Dems get 60 Senators, they will be able to do as they whilst. That includes putting tens of millions of Americans on the welfare rolls (under the guise of tax reform), as well as destroying entire industries for ideological reasons. And let's not forget that Dems also want to end secret ballots for union organizing. How soon before they end secret ballots for all elections?
But the Dems would not be facing this political bounty if the Republicans had stood for anything other than getting re-elected by any lousy means necessary. So, can I reward them one last time (and would it be just one last time?) for failing to stand on principles in the past?
I don't know the answer to that, and I imagine that I will feel sick however I end up voting Tuesday. The absolute worst of it is that my vote DOES count, and probably more than that most who read this - I live in one of the two most important swing counties in the most important swing state. I don't have the luxury I had when living in Maryland of knowing that the state will go one way or another regardless of how I vote.
Add to this the shocking uniformity in my own family this election cycle. Everyone in my family that can vote is voting for McCain. Even my mother, who has never voted for a Republican for President before, has voted for McCain! (Yes, she has already voted, as has my wife.) And my sister has decided to vote for McCain as well - I think she may have voted for a Republican Presidential candidate once or twice, but I'm not positive about that.
Anyway, it's late and I'm tired. There's more to discuss, but I need to decide which points, if any, I can make publicly at this point. And before I can do that I need sleep, time to think, and perhaps time to write.
Now we know that Obama was lying in his Nomination Acceptance speech when he said he wanted to invest in clean coal technology. Un-fucking-believable. If Obama wins West Virginia Tuesday then we'll know he cheated his way to the White House, 'cause no coal miner would vote for this son of a bitch.
Saturday, November 01, 2008
Erica Jong gave an interview in Italy. Wow, what a colossal idiot! Courtesy of the New York Observer, here are some selected comments.
- "The record shows that voting machines in America are rigged." [No, the record doesn't. The record DOES show massive voter registration fraud by Democrats, however.]
- "Bush has transformed America into a police state, from torture to the imprisonment of reporters, to the Patriot Act." [Um, reporters have been imprisoned for not revealing the sources that 'outed' Valerie Plame - in other words, they've been imprisoned for not ratting out the Bush Administration. Can Jong get any dumber? Yes she can!]
- "My friends Ken Follett and Susan Cheever are extremely worried. Naomi Wolf calls me every day. Yesterday, Jane Fonda sent me an email to tell me that she cried all night and can't cure her ailing back for all the stress that has reduces her to a bundle of nerves."
- "My back is also suffering from spasms, so much so that I had to see an acupuncturist and get prescriptions for Valium."
- "If Obama loses it will spark the second American Civil War. Blood will run in the streets, believe me. And it's not a coincidence that President Bush recalled soldiers from Iraq for Dick Cheney to lead against American citizens in the streets."
This last quote is the best. I can't decide which image is funnier - Dick Cheney riding down the middle of Broadway in a tank to crush the rebellion, or the image of Erica Jong, Naomi Wolf and Jane Fonda manning the barricades. Probably the latter. Hell, Jong can't even function (such as it is) unless she's drugged up and stuck with pins! How the Hell is that moron going to lead a rebellion?
Also, as I have written and said elsewhere, if this does lead to a Second Civil War, then it will be the shortest civil war ever fought. The Right owns all the guns in the country, and everyone on the Left wet themselves at the mere mention of the NRA.
Friday, October 31, 2008
Up in Duval County they're considering renaming a school currently named for Nathan Bedford Forrest. He was one of the better Civil War generals (for the losing side), and an early "luminary" of the Ku Klux Klan. The Orlando Sentinel thinks it would be a good idea to change the name to something a little less toxic.
I would also note that naming one's on-line fantasy baseball team after N. B. Forrest is also a bad idea. Especially if you play at work.
Actually, that last part isn't really true. You CAN play fantasy baseball at work, and you CAN name your team after an infamous Klansman. What you can't do is read CNN or blogs at work - THOSE offenses will get you fired. I know all of this because I got fired for the latter by a man who did the former. Don't tell me there's no justice in the world, 'cause I already know.
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
Today we found out that Mom's bladder cancer has recurred. How bad has the last year and a half been? So bad that this news hardly registers. It's only bladder cancer! Next she will need another colonoscopy to find out if her bowels have gone cancerous, and to see if even more needs to be removed.
Have I mentioned that 2008 sucks?
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
Last week I took a brief, unexpected trip to my sister's home in Georgia. While I was up there I saw an interesting add on the local TV station. If one bought a new Ford F-150 pickup truck, the dealer would give you a free Ford Focus!
My niece (now a grown woman with children of her own) happened to see the commercial too. She said, "I wonder what the catch is?" I said, "The catch is that if you buy the truck, then you MUST take the Focus."
Monday, October 27, 2008
This interview (now being headlined by Drudge) exposes Obama's total lack of respect for the Constitution, his belief that government should not be limited in any way, his belief in punishing people for success, and his belief that the government should decide who can and should have wealth. [Here's a link to a partial transcript, as I fully expect the Obama people or the Google people to remove this from YouTube soon.] This SHOULD be enough to cost Obama the election. Honestly, he should lose every state by at least 30 or 40 points. That is, IF Americans still believe in limited government, personal responsibility, and individual liberty.
But they don't. So the best that could happen would be that Obama loses a squeaker. But that's also unlikely. Obama is going to win, and win by at least a comfortable margin - both electorally and in the popular vote.
Forget the polls, and whether or not they show a close race or a big win for Obama. The polls have had increasing difficulties both in creating a good random sample (cell phones are partly to blame for this) and in determining the proper weighting to give to each party. The polls are useless this year and should be ignored. Instead look at two other factors, one objective and one subjective.
First, which states are the campaigns focusing on? It's not surprising that they're focusing on states Bush won in 2004 - after all, Bush won because of swing states. Such states are called thus because they swing from election to election. But McCain is working hard in Virginia and North Carolina. That is NOT good. (I expect that link to change, but it currently shows that the McCain campaign will be in Virginia three times in the coming week, Pennsylvania three times, Ohio twice and North Carolina once.)
Second, which campaign feels like a winner? McCain's campaign seems desperate, and McCain campaign workers trying to lay the blame on Palin confirms that his people are trying to save their own asses first and foremost, their candidate be damned. By contrast, Obama's campaign looks confident even when they're telling people that the election will be close and that no one should take anything for granted.
All of this adds up to an Obama win. And Obama doesn't even like the USA, its Constitution, or its founding principles! The game is lost, and the Republic is dead. The time has come to make plans for surviving in a world that despises liberty.
ADDED: Althouse makes the point that Obama's views aren't that extraordinary in the legal profession. That doesn't make me feel any better.
Sunday, October 26, 2008
Dave Schuler is too charitable in his blog post "Both Candidates Suck". He opens with the following:
In just ten days either Sen. John McCain or Sen. Barack Obama will be elected president of the United States. Of that there can be little doubt. I’m still struggling with a decision on which candidate I’ll vote for because, simply and more coarsely than I generally express myself, both candidates suck.Later he writes:
I think that both Sen. Obama and Sen. McCain are good, decent, honorable men.Based on the political careers of both men, I'm not sure that either man can be described as good, decent or honorable. Obama has been willing to do anything and associate with anyone to win, apparently for no other purpose than to gain power for himself. McCain hasn't been quite as bad, but given that he dumped his first wife for a rich, connected hottie, he hasn't had to do as much as Obama on that front. But McCain has been quite willing to use his power for his own personal gain. (See his actions against mixed martial arts and his campaign finance "reform" work.) Frankly I think that both of them are crooks, indecent and bad men. Unfortunately, limited government has been destroyed in this country so the election of such men will do more and more damage.
From the Orlando Sentinel:
Bit by bit, the new rocket ship that is supposed to blast America into the second Space Age and return astronauts to the moon appears to be coming undone. The latest setback is a computer model that indicates the rocket could crash into its launch tower during liftoff. [emphasis added]
Saturday, October 25, 2008
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
Monday, October 20, 2008
What amuses me — and it’s black comedy (no pun intended) indeed — is that many of the people voting for Obama seem to be doing so on the hope that he doesn’t mean what he says, and most of the people voting for McCain are doing so on the fear that Obama means exactly what he says. What [a long], strange trip it’s been.I would like to expand on this a little. A great many of Obama's supporters (or at least a great many of his supporters that I encounter) tell me that Obama isn't really as radical as his past associations. He only used the Reverend Wright, Bill Ayers, etc. to get ahead, and that Obama is really the Great Centrist Uniter of All Mankind. But this leads to two sets of questions.
First, assume that Obama did in fact use these people to get ahead, as well as the corrupt Chicago Machine. Why did he do that? After all, we've been told that after he left Harvard, indeed after he left Columbia following his undergraduate work, he could have gone anywhere and done anything. Associating with corrupt politicians, sleazy operators like Tony Rezko, racist agitators, and communist bomb
Second, if Obama did in fact use such people simply to further his own ambitions, we should assume that he now uses centrists to further his own career. "Centrist" Obama supporters have already accepted that Obama is a cynical user. So the question then becomes, "Does Obama believe in anything other than himself?"
I'm having trouble seeing how any of this leads to a good outcome for the country, and I'm having trouble seeing flaws in the logic.
Thursday, October 16, 2008
When McCain voters (I hesitate to call most of them fans or supporters) try to convince me to vote for McCain their arguments take on the "Yes ..., but ...." form. (Buffy fans would call these but-faced arguments.) "Yes McCain's stance on campaign finance is bad, but Obama's support of ________ is much worse." "Yes McCain favors government solutions too often, but Obama is practically a socialist." "Yes McCain compromises too much, but imagine Obama working in concert with Pelosi, Reid, et al." Etc. It may not help their case, but it has the charm of acknowledging legitimate problems exist with McCain's candidacy.
But when I encounter Obama partisans online and they find out I don't support their candidate they go straight to insult and invective. The tone is "How dare you?!" Then one will be called a fossil, an ignoramus, a racist, or what have you. Dissent is NOT allowed.
Keep it up, Obama-bots. You may well convince me to vote for McCain yet. It will be much less obnoxious dealing with McCain voters shaking their heads and muttering "I know, I know...." than it will be dealing with Obama's crew of cyber-brown shirts.
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
In his Personal Memoirs, Ulysses S. Grant discusses his early education:
The schools, at the time of which I write, were very indifferent. There were no free schools, and none in which the scholars were classified. They were all supported by subscription, and a single teacher—who was often a man or a woman incapable of teaching much, even if they imparted all they knew—would have thirty or forty scholars, male and female, from the infant learning the A B C’s up to the young lady of eighteen and the boy of twenty, studying the highest branches taught—the three R’s, “Reading, ’Riting, ’Rithmetic.” I never saw an algebra, or other mathematical work higher than the arithmetic, in Georgetown, until after I was appointed to West Point. I then bought a work on algebra in Cincinnati; but having no teacher it was Greek to me.Later he mentions his studies at West Point:
My life in Georgetown was uneventful. From the age of five or six until seventeen, I attended the subscription schools of the village, except during the winters of 1836–7 and 1838–9. The former period was spent in Maysville, Kentucky, attending the school of Richardson and Rand; the latter in Ripley, Ohio, at a private school. I was not studious in habit, and probably did not make progress enough to compensate for the outlay for board and tuition. At all events both winters were spent in going over the same old arithmetic which I knew every word of before, and repeating: “A noun is the name of a thing,” which I had also heard my Georgetown teachers repeat, until I had come to believe it—but I cast no reflections upon my old teacher, Richardson. He turned out bright scholars from his school, many of whom have filled conspicuous places in the service of their States. Two of my contemporaries there—who, I believe, never attended any other institution of learning—have held seats in Congress, and one, if not both, other high offices; these are Wadsworth and Brewster. [emphasis added]
I did not take hold of my studies with avidity, in fact I rarely ever read over a lesson the second time during my entire cadetship. I could not sit in my room doing nothing. There is a fine library connected with the Academy from which cadets can get books to read in their quarters. I devoted more time to these, than to books relating to the course of studies. Much of the time, I am sorry to say, was devoted to novels, but not those of a trashy sort. I read all of Bulwer’s then published, Cooper’s, Marryat’s, Scott’s, Washington Irving’s works, Lever’s, and many others that I do not now remember. Mathematics was very easy to me, so that when January came, I passed the examination, taking a good standing in that branch. In French, the only other study at that time in the first year’s course, my standing was very low. In fact, if the class had been turned the other end foremost I should have been near head. I never succeeded in getting squarely at either end of my class, in any one study, during the four years. I came near it in French, artillery, infantry and cavalry tactics, and conduct.After graduation, he sought an appointment as an assistant professor of Mathematics at West Point. Having received news favorable tidings, Grant began a course of personal study:
Accordingly I laid out for myself a course of studies to be pursued in garrison, with regularity, if not persistency. I reviewed my West Point course of mathematics during the seven months at Jefferson Barracks, and read many valuable historical works, besides an occasional novel. To help my memory I kept a book in which I would write up, from time to time, my recollections of all I had read since last posting it.Unfortunately for Grant, the Mexican War ruined his plans and his life took a different course than he had hoped.
Note that years of rote learning (repeating “A noun is the name of a thing” for years on end), reading as many novels as he could lay hand on, and some practice served to make Grant an excellent writer. Have the educational schools and theories of the intervening 160+ years improved matters?
* Quotes from Grant's Personal Memoirs have been taken from here.
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
I have come to completely distrust the polls. I have no doubt that Obama is ahead right now. I also increasingly suspect that widespread fraud will give Obama an additional point or so in the final outcome, more in some swing states.
But I find it impossible to believe that a man that almost no one had heard of four years ago is about to crush McCain by a popular result that matches what Reagan did to Mondale in 1984. That strains credulity. I'm not sure if the polls are being gamed, or if increasingly diverse forms of telecommunication have ruined the old polling methods, but something isn't right.
Incidentally, the last time someone won an open Presidential election (meaning no incumbent) by that margin was 1928. Somehow that seems appropriate: the winner was Herbert Hoover and I fully expect our next President to have a Hoover-like term.
Aside: Blogger's spell check function finally recognizes both 'Barack' and 'Obama'.
Driving through College Park (one of the city of Orlando's better middle-to-upper-middle class neighborhoods) Sunday I counted a 10 to 6 advantage for Obama. But McCain leads in area as one family put up a 4' by 6' McCain/Palin sign. Note that I'm only counting houses with signs. Some families have put up two signs in their yard in an effort to make it look like a neighbor also supports their candidate. Sometimes the second sign blocks a neighbor's sign for the other guy. One family has almost completely obstructed the view of their Obama sign by placing a "Vote No on 2" sign directly in front of it.
I do take the same route every time, but I may be paying more or less attention on any given day. I didn't keep a strict count yesterday or today, but it seems like the layout and number of signs varies daily. And I know that the first time I drove through their last week there were more McCain signs. I suspect signs may be stolen at night.
I also drove around the smaller towns of Ocoee and Winter Garden on Sunday. I only saw one sign in Ocoee (McCain), but McCain signs were EVERYWHERE in Winter Garden. I did finally spot one Obama sign, but all the other signs in the yard were for local Republicans so I believe the Obama thing may be a protest vote. (Kim, I forgot about that sign when I told you about this.) I did see one other piece of Obamania in Winter Garden - a bumper sticker on the back of a rusted-out panel van. The van was in desperate need of a junk heap upon which to fling itself.
All told, if McCain wins Ocoee and Winter Garden but loses Winter Park and Orlando, then he's toast in Orange County. At the very least McCain needs to keep it competitive in Orange County if he has any hope of carrying the state.
I know people think of the Pacific Northwest when thinking of anti-government kooks that refuse to pay taxes, but we have some in Florida too. Our weather is good whether you're an upright citizen of the US or a genuine sovereign nation!
Joel Brinkle keeps getting arrested for driving without a license. So far, it has happened three times. He doesn't need a license, he said, because, just like his wife, he has proclaimed himself a sovereign nation.Just read the whole thing, as it gets much funnier.
Note that although they have declared themselves outside of US governmental authority, they still collect Social Security. This fits in well with the comments to this post at Amba's. I almost suspect them of perpetrating a monumental piece of performance art!
Votes in Florida are diluted by the presence of ineligible voters. From the Fort Lauderdale Sun Sentinel, via the Orlando Sentinel:
More than 30,000 Florida felons who by law should have been stripped of their right to vote remain registered to cast ballots in this presidential battleground state, a Sun Sentinel investigation has found.Of course, efforts to purge the rolls before the 2000 election led to howls of rage from Democrats. I wonder why?
Many are faithful voters, with at least 4,900 turning out in past elections.
An additional 5,600 are not likely to vote Nov. 4 -- they're in prison.
Of the felons who registered with a party, Democrats outnumber Republicans more than 2-to-1.Oh.
I am amused that a local paper could figure this out but the state government claims to be too short-handed to fix the problem. Pray tell, where did all those tax revenues go when property and tourist taxes drove up state and local government revenues from 2002-2007?
And I'm still waiting for someone to look into how many snowbirds vote here and in their home states. If we're not careful someone will accuse us of being some sort of Mickey Mouse state.
Sunday, October 12, 2008
I've been too pissed off to write it myself, but I have had a good deal of rage about all the phony posturing about Republican rage. Fortunately, Glenn Reynolds has written a link-filled post on the matter so I don't have to. Procrastination pays again!
Dave Schuler points out that government in this country has critical structural problems:
Government in the United States remains mired in a 1950’s model of corporate management and operations. Over the period of the last 30 years, impelled by both domestic and international competition, businesses in the United States have changed the way in which they function in basic ways that result in their producing a lot more with a lot less. Governments haven’t been subject to these pressures and haven’t made these changes. We just can’t afford to continue with a government that works like a big company in 1960. That’s just too expensive but, unfortunately, nobody is talking about this because our current crop of politicians are too invested in things as they are.In the comments I make a suitably cynical remark:
[Dave provides two excellent examples in the paragraphs I'm cutting. Go read his whole post.]
Inefficient, antiquated, wasteful, and self-serving government agencies undermine the idea that government can be an effective technology for solving human problems. They delegitimize government and encourage cynicism.
Yeah, but government agencies being self-serving is a design feature, not a bug - if you’re working for the government. I don’t see how anyone can reform governments at this point, given the power of the government employee’s unions. And in Illinois aren’t creations like the Illinois State Toll Highway Authority simply an expedient way of granting political favors to people?The structure of government itself has become one of the biggest problems we face in this country, and I see no way to change it. This is one more reason to pass on voting, as it is one more reason that not a god damned thing will change regardless of who I vote
I just don’t see how government can be reformed at this point, because no one has the guts to take on the government employees.
Saturday, October 11, 2008
Driving around College Park yesterday I saw many more Presidential election yard than I had seen in Winter Park a few days ago. Driving through the first time I saw one more Obama sign than McCain sign. Coming back I wasn't paying attention until just before I got on I-4, when I saw one Obama sign.
Earlier in the week we drove up to St. Augustine. We took A1A from Daytona to St. Augustine both coming and going. We saw lots of McCain signs, and I believe only one Obama sign the whole trip. (Again, I'm just counting yard signs.)If the best McCain can do is slightly less than 50% in Orange County, then he's toast. Which we all know anyway, but this just adds a little more anecdotal evidence to the pile.
I've decided to not vote this November. I had already decided to write-in my own name for the Presidency (maybe I could be part of a foot-note!) because the main choices are at least as bad as the fringe choices. And the election between my local Congressman and his opponent has become a “Who’s the biggest scumbag?” contest. So I wouldn’t vote in that race either.
But I have finally decided to skip the whole damned thing because of a combination of three factors. First, under the best of circumstances my vote would only equal that of a crack addict who sold their vote for a rock. Second, under the worst circumstances my vote would only count for some fraction of that person's vote, given that some people have registered as many as seventy-two (72!) times. Honesty pays only at a discount.
But the third reason dwarfs these two factors. We have two political parties in this country that have monopolized the political process. These parties have made it impossible for any other party to challenge for real power. And worst of all, each party only cares about its own power, not the health of the nation.
Consider the current financial crisis. Several of the root causes have become clear: government forcing banks and other lenders to make high risk loans; government guaranteeing those loans (those who object to the bailout don't seem to realize that their elected officials had essentially promised such a bailout if necessary); noxious accounting rules forced on private enterprise by Sarbanes-Oxley; no oversight of GSEs; and cheap money with nowhere else to go but real estate. Most of these ideas come from the Democratic Party. In a rational world the Democrats would NOT get rewarded for this colossal fuck-up. But in THIS world they will reap great rewards - a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate, a larger majority in the House, and the Presidency –so as to do more of the same! This is insane behavior.
But it's worse than that, because even though the worst of the ideas have come from the Democratic Party, the Republican Party has mostly agreed with these ideas once implemented. Yes, some Republicans have objected to some of the root causes from time to time, but most went along to get along. As we can see from the size of the current crisis, Republicans should have been shouting from the crow’s-nest, “This way be dragons - change course now!” They didn't, and consequently they have lost all credibility.
But the Democrats also should have lost all credibility, and they haven't. In a rational system of government a credible third party would be forming right now, and perhaps even a credible fourth party. Due to the structure of our political system it would be too late for them to take control of any branch of government this election, but at the very least a few should get elected - perhaps even enough to deny either party a clear majority. And by 2010 one or both of the major parties should be all but dead at the ballot box. That isn't happening, and it won't happen. The system has failed - and like Humpty Dumpty, it can never be restored.
Therefore I have no compelling reason to vote. Q.E.D.
Sunday, October 05, 2008
This has nothing to do with the MSM news organizations. This is my subjective reporting of bare-boned facts. Today I spent a good deal of time driving around Winter Park and Orlando. I saw many more Obama yard signs than McCain yard signs. I'd put it at about 4-1, maybe more, in favor of Obama. It's subjective just because my path was semi-random.
Thursday, October 02, 2008
Do you wonder why some of the people you know behave so irrationally? How they can support one candidate or political party so rabidly, ignoring evidence that "their team" doesn't measure up to the high standards they demand of the other guys?
Just remember this: Those friends and neighbors of yours are only a few generations removed from those who burned people at the stake. Perhaps the old woman on the outskirts of town for giving someone the "evil eye". Or the young girl who kept to herself - clearly she was in league with the Devil, and had caused the
THAT is who your neighbors are. They can't help it - it's in their blood. And it's in yours, too.
Wednesday, October 01, 2008
P. J. O'Rourke gets an undignified cancer, and we get to read the results. Here's my favorite passage:
Then there's the matter of our debt to death for life as we know it. I believe in God. I also believe in evolution. If death weren't around to "finalize" the Darwinian process, we'd all still be amoebas. We'd eat by surrounding pizzas with our belly flab and have sex by lying on railroad tracks waiting for a train to split us into significant others.
I consider evolution to be more than a scientific theory. I think it's a call to God. God created a free universe. He could have created any kind of universe he wanted. But a universe without freedom would have been static and meaningless -- the taxpayer-funded-art-in-public-places universe.
Rather, God created a universe full of cosmic whatchmajiggers and subatomic whosits free to interact. And interact they did, becoming matter and organic matter and organic matter that replicated itself and life. And that life was completely free, as amoral as my cancer cells.
Life forms could exercise freedom to an idiotic extent, growing uncontrolled, thoughtless and greedy to the point that they killed the source of their own fool existence. But, with the help of death, matter began to learn right from wrong -- how to save itself and its ilk, how to nurture, how to love (or, anyway, how to build a Facebook page) and how to know God and his rules.
Tuesday, September 30, 2008
As a corollary to the previous post, I plan to ignore all the partisan hackery I'm reading everywhere. (At least as much as I can. I'm only human.) Especially those people who are hoping for a complete crash in order to advance their party, or just for the hell of it. Such people generally have nothing to offer anyway.
Monday, September 29, 2008
Our leaders are failing. They don't comprehend the level of the crisis we face, and seem unwilling to set aside personal political gain for more than a sentence at a time. Public utterances have taken this form: "We need to put aside partisan politics to resolve this crisis. Now let me tell you why the other guys suck." This is unacceptable.
Charlie had a comment at Amba's place today that partially captures the enormity of the moment:
Pat, until this sorts out, there are no good risks. People are talking about a potential for a 4,000 point loss out of this, maybe in the next month. (Remember, Wednesday is October. And Octobers are bad.)Let me put it another way. Today is roughly equivalent to September 12, 2001 - crisis has overwhelmed mere partisan concerns. Action needs to be taken right now to prevent events from spiraling out of control.
Every measure of the market says it would take an atomic war to be more worrisome right now.
But this comparison to September 12, 2001 is wrong. The crisis we face now is worse. Beyond the immediate death and destruction of that day, the 9/11 attacks led to a double-dipper recession, a couple of minor wars and some bad domestic legislation. All in all bad times. But today we face the prospect of entering another global depression, a catastrophe not seen since the 1930s. To understand how bad THAT got, consider that World War II can be considered a secondary effect of the Great Depression.
Right now the politicians should only discuss how to keep the current crisis from turning into a complete disaster. After the immediate crisis we can assess blame and resume partisan bickering while we figure out how to fix the root causes. But not now.
I understand that ideas about how to avert disaster differ, often from deep philosophical differences, and that heated exchanges will occur. But I don't want to hear any more overt partisanship. Until the deal is done, I don't want to hear any Democrat use the word "Republican". And I don't want to hear any Republican use the word "Democrat". I don't even want to hear phrases like "the other side". We're staring disaster in the face, and it's time for our elected representatives to lead and to govern. As a first step they must quite acting like "me first" partisans. In short, put aside parties and act as Americans. The nation requires it.
The financial bailout bill collapsed today after failing to pass in the House of Representatives. The most incredible thing to me is that Nancy Pelosi sunk the bill. Shortly before the bill came to a vote Pelosi delivered a strong partisan attack on Republicans. [CORRECTION: The attack was very partisan, but it was actually awful. If I get a transcript I'll go through it line by line.] Following yesterday's comments in which Pelosi stated that Republicans weren't patriotic, it is no surprise that Republicans, already unhappy about the bill, decided to vote against it. However, Pelosi is so incompetent that ~40% of House Democrats also voted against the bill. I have never seen such incompetence from a House Speaker before. I yearn for the days of Dennis Hastert or Dan Rostenkowski. At least THEY knew how to count votes....
Sunday, September 28, 2008
My old 'hood produces fine young men like this!
MIAMI, Florida (CNN) -- Prospective jurors gasped last week at the gruesome details of torture described in a courtroom as attorneys navigated the jury selection process in Charles Taylor Jr.'s trial, which begins Monday.Shockingly, this article neglect to mention that Chuckie spent some of his formative years in Pine Hills, Florida, known to some of us as HOME. Pine Hills - where the Third World recruits torturers!
Defense attorney John Wylie told prospective jurors they can expect to hear "allegations of burning people with clothes irons; allegations of shocking genitals with electrical charges; allegations of cutting genitals; allegations of forcing people to sodomize each other; allegations of cutting off people's heads and displaying the heads."
But, Wylie said, "Mr. Emmanuel pleads not guilty to all of these charges." He said the government has little physical evidence, such as DNA, to back up its allegations.
The indictment alleges that under his father's presidency, Taylor Jr. became the leader of the Anti-Terrorist Unit and the Liberian National Police. Both groups are accused of abducting, torturing and killing people. Court documents say people were brought to the presidential compound, where the acts occurred.
The early ratings suggest that the Senator Obama - John debate had lower numbers than the first Bush-Kerry debate. The numbers were comparable to the Clinton-Dole debate in 1996. (Final numbers should be out on Monday.) I believe that this election will have a low turnout. Of course, I get ill when ever I see either of these clowns on TV, so I might not be the best indicator of voter excitement this election.
Incidentally, I skipped the debate. I did record it, but decided to delete it. I see no reason to make myself miserable watching one of these wretched excuses for debates. Nothing I've read since then makes me doubt my decision to skip it.
UPDATE: Lower viewer totals have been confirmed.
Friday, September 26, 2008
Reading this excellent summary of the current crisis finally brought to mind the correct comparison.
Think of the overall economy as a body. The financial system isn't the circulatory system, it's the digestive system. Food (money) goes in, gets processed, provides energy (loans & such), and eventually the waste gets excreted to provide fertilizer to grow more food. The problem at the moment is that the food has gone in (money into financial institutions), been processed to provide energy (home loans, etc.), but the waste has NOT been excreted to provide more fertilizer. Basically, the financial system has a blockage, so the whole economy has become constipated.
Believe it or not, constipation can kill you if it gets bad enough. Your guts will knot up and eventually something somewhere will break. What's needed in this case is powerful enema.
And so, what we have is a blockage (liquidity crisis) that needs a high colonic (some form of bailout). We'll flush water (money) up the wrong end (that is, via the government, which is the body's asshole) to shake "things" (home loans) loose, letting the system regain its equilibrium.
Aside: Yes, government is the asshole of the economy - it's necessary, but it ain't pretty, and only perverts want to spend their lives there. Unfortunately, today's economic body is over one-third asshole. That can't be good.
Thursday, September 25, 2008
I loathe Eliot Spitzer for a variety of reasons, which I won't go into here. (And for reasons that have nothing to do with his prostitution ties, even though they made me laugh out loud.) But today I found an interesting speech he made several years ago. Below is an extended quote from remarks Spitzer made on June 4, 2003 at the Securities and Exchange Commission Historical Society's 4th Annual Meeting. It's kind of a long slog, but it goes nicely with an email I wrote to Amba, which she placed in the update to this post.
I do want to make two substantive points...Some of this relates to our current troubles, some doesn't. I hope I can come back to this in a few days to add some more thoughts, but I can't guarantee that I'll have any time to do so. In the meantime I hope you find this worthy of some thought.
First, when it comes to the larger decline in ethical behavior at the board level that we have seen in the private sector, I think we make a serious mistake when we think about the problem and confine it to the private sector. What we have seen is endemic through every sector in our society. It is in our government, both elective and appointive. It is in our not-forprofit sector. It is in our religious institutions. It is in our media. It is in the private sector.
And when we step back and try to critique and figure out what went wrong, therefore, I think we are deluding ourselves a little bit if we think that it is exclusively a matter of greed and money, because money is not the sole motivating factor in several of those other sectors. And, therefore, I think we have a more complicated textured problem to deal with than simply analysts could make more money by putting a buy on a stock that was being underwritten by the company. That is, you know, a critique that fit that one little paradigm, but it does not answer the much more difficult question about what happened in all of these other sectors.
The only thoughtful answer that I have seen to this problem was crafted by somebody who I think is one of the most brilliant elected officials we ever had, and he died, unfortunately, not long ago, and that's Pat Moynihan.
Pat Moynihan, in a very different context, wrote about defining deviancy down. When he was talking about criminal justice and street crime, he said that over a period of years we lost the will to prosecute and pursue small violations. Whether it was graffiti, pickpocketing, whatever it may have been, we lost the will to pursue that.
And what happened over time was that there was a dissipation in standards, a dissipation in our expectation with respect to the behavior that people had to live up to. And that permeated our society and crime exploded.
Now, then from that sort of intellectual nugget, what evolved was the broken window school of prosecution, which went after small crimes to re-establish our basic moral principles. And over time we have beaten back the issue of street crime to a great extent. We have some problems here and there, certainly, but we have made enormous progress.
I think the same thing happened with respect to our governing structures. Small violations that may have been akin to a barnacle on the bottom of a boat, that did not appear to be material, one-off balance sheet partnership, one small indiscretion, began to grow during a decade when things were so good that we lost the will to challenge small violations. And over time it led to a larger dissipation.
And as a result, we woke up a year or two ago when things crashed for a number of other reasons, and because a rising tide washes away a lot of sins, we suddenly had to see what wreckage was there. And it was a consequence of a growing complacency that calls out in many sectors for all of us--and I think that's why--and I hate to pontificate, to use a word derivative of one you just used. But I think all of us who are in positions where we have fiduciary duties have to re-examine how we fulfill them. Because I think it is everybody in every position of some power or governing responsibility who has to examine what happened and why. And I think we all have to sort of pull ourselves up by the bootstraps and think of this in a much larger context.
The second issue I want to address very quickly is: Do they get it? And this emerged, I suppose, very--with some significance on the day we announced the global settlement, and there were some responses from CEOs in various companies that challenged people's judgment about do the CEOs in the investment banking community get it.
But the "they" that I'm referring to right now is not the "they" in the investment banking community. I think they do get it. I really do. And I'm--you have to be an optimist in the business that we're in, and maybe this is a self-delusion and five years from now we'll wake up and say, no, they simply didn't. But I do think they get it, and not necessarily because of the new rules or the new regs, but for a different reason that maybe I'll touch on.
But the "they" that I'm asking about now is Congress. And I think there's a large question about whether Congress, which ultimately enacts the laws that will define the boundaries of financial regulation, whether they have properly understood that after a spasm of deregulation that maybe in certain instances was important and right and necessary, nonetheless, there are problems that have emerged and tensions that have emerged that have not been properly mediated.
And I would give you two examples of ongoing legislative potential enactments that I think suggest to me that perhaps Congress needs to step back and re-examine its role. And those two are: one, the definition of "disinterested party" in the bankruptcy statute in terms of who can give advice in the bankruptcy context, where their--what passed the House would permit the very investment banks that did the underwriting to step back in and garner fees from the very wreckage that they helped create, a change in a statute that for 70 years had served us very well, an issue that passed the House with hardly an inquiry of relevant parties, no inquiry as far as I know to the SEC, and recently when we were up at the Senate Banking Committee, Chairman Donaldson, I was thrilled to see, opposed this move. But the House passed it without that inquiry.
The second measure that they're about to enact or the House passed it--it is before the Senate, I understand--relates to industrial banks where there is about to be created an entire--a possibility for an entire secondary banking system outside the regulatory structure of the Fed. Chairman Greenspan has opposed this, and yet in dark of night, basically, this measure as well has passed.
And so what we are still seeing on the Hill is a willingness to break down those rules and divides and barriers that were, to a great extent, important protectors of investors, depositors, and had some meaning, even though it was very easy for a number of years to malign them and say deregulation is the cure for all.
And I think if you look at the sectors where we have gone through this deregulatory spasm, we now should know there is, in fact, no cure-all called deregulation. So I think that we need to ask do they get it, not just of the investment banks but of our congressional leadership that, through its behavior, may not be serving us terribly well.
Now, I know Ted has a lot of questions, as do you, I hope. Let me just make two very quick final observations.
One is what will ultimately drive this. It is not laws. It is not even necessarily--it is enforcement actions, but in a derivative sort of way. Shame is the greatest public motivator. And I think what has changed out there in the past two years is that individuals who were inviolate, individuals who believed they were beyond reproach, so-called masters of the universe, have now found out that that is a very transitory phase.
And I will leave you with two really final brief thoughts. One is the advice that I have given to many folks, which is, if you want to learn the lesson the real way, get "Bonfire of the Vanities" and read it. It is that book more than anything else that shows you how somebody who--Sherman McCoy was the master of the universe. One wrong turn off the Deegan(ph) into the South Bronx, game over. And suddenly your life changes. And I grew up in the Bronx. I can say this. So he did not understand where--what the boundaries were of his power.
And the second thought is that--it was emblazoned on a T-shirt that a friend of mine gave to me that captured up--captured much of this, and it said across the front, "Hubris Is Terminal." And that I think is what befell not only the investment banking sector but also other sectors where we now have seen this governing crisis, where people did feel they were beyond reproach, and hopefully the renewed attention to this will resuscitate feelings of shame, to a lesser extent an obligation that is captured by our notions of fiduciary duty, and population will begin to live up to the mandate that we have invested in them.
If that happens, this entire spasm will have been enormously worthwhile and productive, and at the end of the day will have served investors and the public at large very, [very well.] [The transcript is garbled here, so the I'm not about the last two words.]
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
Monday, September 22, 2008
Friday, September 19, 2008
Am I the only person who notices how much the Obama campaign abuses language? They may get the parts right, but ultimately the language doesn't make any sense. Let me review a couple of recent examples.
Freddoso asks Barack, "How many unrepentant Communist terrorists do you have as friends?" [p. 126] This question is so ridiculous it refutes itself. Barack might as well ask Freddoso how many leprechauns he’s friends with. - Obama Action Wire [Emphasis added.]Even if Freddoso's question is ridiculous, that doesn't make it self-refuting. Neither the presence of unrepentant Communist terrorists nor the presence of leprechauns (in the Obama campaign's rejoinder) makes either question internally inconsistent. Both questions ask for the number of a certain class of objects - the questions as phrased don't even allow for internal inconsistency.
The trick here is obvious: Obama wants for everyone to assume the answer is "ZERO", but more importantly he wants everyone to dismiss the question. By equating "unrepentant Communist terrorists" with "Leprechauns", the issue has been transformed from one of quantity (How many?) to one of existence (Do lollipop-and-rainbow-farting unicorns exist?), thus dodging the question completely. Pay no attention to the unrepentant Communist terrorist behind the curtain!
The second example helpfully provides an example of something that does contradict itself:
The first sentence makes the blanket assertion "[one] can't make this up." The second sentence asserts that "this" is just like something someone else has made up. Both statements can't be true. (The reader can ponder the semantic differences between "refute" and "contradict" on his own time.)
"I'm not making this up, you can't make this up. It's like a 'Saturday Night Live' routine." - Obama in Las Vegas
Earlier this week the Obama campaign provided a third example when they angrily stated that a New York Post article was essentially a pack of lies. However, their statement confirmed the New York Post's version of events.
Obama's campaign (and frequently Obama himself) never seems to miss a chance to misuse the language. It appears that they have read Orwell closely, and have decided that polluting the discourse helps their cause. Lies and distortions are understandable - these are common political tactics, to be expected from a common politician. But the Obama campaign goes beyond that, contorting the language so that all meaning is lost. And if they can just "angrily deny" loudly enough, and "denounce" strenuously enough, and "stand up to Swift Boat politics" resolutely enough, no one will pay attention to the factual and logical content of their statements.
(1) Kim and I discussed this paragraph at some length. She pointed out that I missed something. While the original question does start with "how many", it's really a question about who Obama calls "friend". So it's really a question of type masquerading as a question of quantity, which gets transformed into a question of existence. I'm still thinking about what this means.
Thursday, September 18, 2008
... why I'm not a libertarian. While I do think that a smaller federal government is a good idea, particulars do matter. One particular concerns market regulation. Yesterday the Securities and Exchange Commission issued some new rules regulating naked short selling. I consider this a good thing, although I also accept that such rules and regulations can be improved upon over time. Sometimes that means abolishing them altogether. But I wonder if getting rid of the Glass-Steagall Act was really a good idea....
The goal ought to be to have a well-regulated economy. I stipulate that well-regulated means no more regulations than necessary, but an unregulated economy has problems all its own.
Added: Perhaps we need to consider some form of curb on institutions so that they don't reach TOO-BIG-TO-FAIL size. Such institutions ultimately privatize rewards while leaving the public covering the risks. Free markets aren't supposed to work like that.
Update: On Friday the SEC temporarily banned ALL short selling of 799 financial stocks, in an effort to bolster confidence.
Tuesday, September 16, 2008
Monday, September 15, 2008
Last week at the black-tie dinner in Washington which closed a Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute gathering, Obama said:
“This election is about the 12 million people living in the shadows, the communities taking immigration enforcement into their own hand. They are counting on us to stop the hateful rhetoric filling our airwaves, and rise above the fear, and rise above the demagoguery, and finally enact comprehensive immigration reform. [emphasis added]”How, exactly, does Obama intend to stop the "hateful rhetoric"? Perhaps he'll sick
This isn't the first time Obama has ignored the Constitution in his rhetoric. During his speech at the Democratic Convention Obama said the following:
But I will also go through the federal budget, line by line, eliminating programs that no longer work and making the ones we do need work better and cost less - because we cannot meet twenty-first century challenges with a twentieth century bureaucracy.The first problem is that the President doesn't make the budget, Congress does. Second, his speech implies that he will use a line item veto - which is another power that the President doesn't have. I suppose I should chalk this bit up to the usual stupid campaign rhetoric as used by all politicians in all elections. However, given that he is supposed to be brilliant AND a Constitutional scholar, I believe we should expect better from him. And given his proclivities to ignore the right to free speech, I feel no need to give him the benefit of the doubt.
I'm thinking that Bill needs to update his scorecard. Perhaps he needs a new category for "Constitution-abusing, lollipop-and-rainbow farting unicorn's dick." Which sounds like something one would find in an Chinese pharmacopoeia, alongside the rhinoceros horn and seahorses.