Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Corollary

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

What I don't want to hear.

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.)

Every measure of the market says it would take an atomic war to be more worrisome right now.
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.

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.

Collapse

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

Cleansing the palate

Enough of this political crap. Bring on some musicians!

Yeah, that's what I'm talking about!

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.

...

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.
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!

Low Expectations [Update]

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

High Colonic

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

Talk about prophetic

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...

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.]
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.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Gaffe-o-matic [Update]

Shut the fuck up, Joey. Now!

(Background.)

Update: NOW!

(Aside: "What happened to President Hoover?" BWAHAHAHAHAHA!)

Also?

God loves idiots the most. You can tell because (a) there are so many of them, and (b) they're usually rewarded with high office, wealth, and fame.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Once again the dragon roams the land

Will a new St. Paul appear to slay the beast? Only time will tell, but signs look bad in the near-term.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Sloppy Language

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.

First:

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! (1)

The second example helpfully provides an example of something that does contradict itself:

"I'm not making this up, you can't make this up. It's like a 'Saturday Night Live' routine." - Obama in Las Vegas

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.)

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.

Leeroy Jenkins!

I had never heard of Leeroy Jenkins until yesterday when he was mentioned in the comments to this post on Althouse.


Wow.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

The current financial crisis explains ... [Updated]

... 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

Woohoo!

I lost less than 3.1% of my 401(k) today! I beat the market!

Monday, September 15, 2008

Yeah, 'cause THAT doesn't sound ominous... [Update]

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 his lawyers the Justice Department on anyone he considers "hateful". I guess they don't teach the free speech clause of the First Amendment at Harvard Law School or the University of Chicago Law School.

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.

Update: Outstanding.

More evidence for disenfranchising Americans under age 30

Razib has more evidence that people under age 30 shouldn't be allowed to vote in this post, although he doesn't present it as such.

What was that about judged sports?

Okay, let us hear no more about the difference between gymnastics and American football. The capriciousness of judges decides the winner in each sport.

...

Incidentally, I would love to see all the gamblers who lost money on the San Diego - Denver game file a class action lawsuit against the NFL and Ed Hochuli.

...

Finally I think that unless XWL takes the preferences of NFL officials (both on and off the field) into account he has no chance of breaking even in his picks.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Ed Hochuli - Is he a crook, or simply incompetent?

Ed Hochuli has just completely fucked the San Diego Chargers. His call late in the San Diego - Denver game was so astoundingly incompetent that it defies belief. (Note to those who don't know: Hochuli is supposed to be one of the best officials in the NFL.) His ruling of "incomplete" may be the worst single call I have ever seen made by any official in any sport. He ought to be suspended fired immediately pending an investigation of whether or not he's on the take. What a fucking joke.

NFL officiating has become so bad that half of the games I watch are decided by the referees. Last week the officiating during the Tampa Bay - New Orleans was atrocious. Obvious face mask and holding penalties weren't called, giving the Saints an undeserved game in the win column.

Honest to God I hope the NFL is rigged, because I would hate to think they're that god damned incompetent. Regardless, I need to stop watching the NFL. When the officiating becomes the key to every other game, it's no longer worth watching.

Added: The officials had also given the Broncos seven points in the first half when their review equipment magically stopped working just long enough to fuck the Chargers on a challenge. The officials GAVE the Broncos 15 points in this game. If the NFL gives a damn about integrity they will fire everyone on the officiating crew, forfeit Denver and give San Diego the win they actually earned. However, given that "Hochuli specializes in civil litigation in the areas of Bad Faith and Extra-Contractual Liability, Complex Litigation, Insurance Coverage and Fraud, Legal Malpractice and Professional Liability, Product Liability Defense" there's exactly zero chance that the NFL will do anything other than once again give Hochuli the reward of officiating the Super Bowl.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Remembrance of Campaigns Past

Reading the comments on this Althouse post reminded me of a small controversy during the 1996 Presidential campaign. In 1996 my wife and I lived in Gainesville Florida and attended the University of Florida. The Clinton/Dole campaign naturally came up in the school paper, The Independent Florida Alligator. In the space of a week they printed two opinion pieces that received very different reactions.

In the first piece, the writer took great offense to Dole's opposition to abortion rights and asked, "What is he, some kind of Nazi?" Given Dole's injuries, and how he got them, I found this very offensive. This writer wrote "serious" opinion pieces for the paper, so I expected some form of outcry. However this scurrilous comment apparently didn't bother the UF community too much.

Less than a week later another writer, who wrote tongue in cheek pieces, called Dole an "old cripple." Perhaps this comment lacked grace, but it had the advantages of being (1) true (Dole was 73 years-old at the time, and crippled) and (2) part of a humor piece. Naturally, the UF community was outraged. How could this writer POSSIBLY use the word "cripple", and how could the editors of the Alligator have allowed this offensive word to make it into print? Dozens of letters to the editor were printed in the next few editions of the paper. The editors had to grovel before the offended masses and the writer was damned near run out of town. One day he was one the more popular writers at the school, the next he was the biggest criminal in Gainesville. I think Danny Rolling was the only person more hated in Gainesville. [Correction: My wife points out that Bobby Bowden was more hated in Gainesville than the writer in question.]

You can draw whatever conclusion you want from this episode.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Headline of the Day

From the Orlando Sentinel:

Police say Deltona man chased naked teen from daughter's room with pipe

The story and comments (as of the time I write) are also fun.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

I have no idea how to title this post.

The first sentence in the linked article:

Anybody who doubts the rapidly growing influence of Japan's erotic cultural imports in the U.S. only has to spend a little time playing with a Hello Kitty vibrator while reading a fan-created pornographic Pokemon comic — or visit a “maid café” (now available near Los Angeles and Canada) where the waitresses all dress in costume — to realize it's not just a fringe subculture anymore.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Palin, Creationism and Distraction

I keep getting comments on one of my Palin & Creationism posts. Flowmaster writes:

In a 2006 gubernatorial debate, the soon-to-be governor of Alaska said of evolution and creation education, "Teach both. You know, don’t be afraid of education. Healthy debate is so important, and it’s so valuable in our schools. I am a proponent of teaching both."

Hmmm...that's pretty clear. She wanted to have it taught...end of story. She might have said something differently recently but that's what she said. IT'S ON RECORD. GET IT!? NO SMEAR...JUST FACT.
Except that the debate quote wasn't even the end of the story in the cited newspaper article.

Let us review the newspaper's account, again:
Palin was answering a question from the moderator near the conclusion of Wednesday night's televised debate on KAKM Channel 7 when she said, "Teach both. You know, don't be afraid of information. Healthy debate is so important, and it's so valuable in our schools. I am a proponent of teaching both."

[I snipped four paragraphs of background on ID, creationism and the courts - Outis]

In an interview Thursday, Palin said she meant only to say that discussion of alternative views should be allowed to arise in Alaska classrooms:

"I don't think there should be a prohibition against debate if it comes up in class. It doesn't have to be part of the curriculum."

She added that, if elected, she would not push the state Board of Education to add such creation-based alternatives to the state's required curriculum.

Members of the state school board, which sets minimum requirements, are appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Legislature.

"I won't have religion as a litmus test, or anybody's personal opinion on evolution or creationism," Palin said.
Palin did clarify her position later - the very next day. That's hardly a retreat issued years later, as Flowmaster implies. Palin made the following points: no religious litmus test for appointees to the education board; clarification that she would not urge the state Board of Education to add Creationism to the state curricula; that discussing alternate theories could have some value in the classroom, if a student mentions one. (That last point ought to be a rule of thumb in any science class - it represents another opportunity to demonstrate what IS and IS NOT science.)

The same article (which is quite good) continues:
Palin has occasionally discussed her lifelong Christian faith during the governor's race but said teaching creationism is nothing she has campaigned about or even given much thought to.

"We're talking about the gas line and PERS/TERS," she said Thursday, referring to the proposed natural gas pipeline and public employee and teacher retirement systems.
Palin hadn't given the matter much thought, as her campaign focused on other issues. That hardly sounds like a raving religious fanatic set on destroying the education system. The issue distracted from the main points of her campaign. (That sounds familiar.)

But if one must bitch about something, bitch about the contents of the very next paragraph:
The Republican Party of Alaska platform says, in its section on education: "We support giving Creation Science equal representation with other theories of the origin of life. If evolution is taught, it should be presented as only a theory."
So the Alaskan Republican Party DOES (or at least DID) endorse this idiocy. Palin didn't give it any thought at all, until others made an issue of it. When asked about it, she gave a simple answer which she clarified the next day. Heep all the scorn on the Alaskan Republican Party you wish - they deserve it.* But quit acting as though teaching Creationism in public schools was a significant campaign issue for Palin.

* They deserve the scorn for several reasons. In no particular order:

  • The United States Supreme Court has ruled that teaching creationism in public schools is unconstitutional. Therefore the platform plank cannot be achieved as a matter of law.


  • Evolution is not a theory, it is an observable fact. Everything from the fossil record (the loooooonnnnnnng time frame), to the breeding of domestic animals (observable over a few generations of human existence), to work in petri dishes (observable in a reasonably short span of time) demonstrates this. The explanations of how evolution occurs are theories.


  • Science does well with recognizing theories as theories. Even the work of an Einstein gets pegged as a theory. Scientists are always looking for better models of reality. Suggesting otherwise looks foolish.


  • On a pedantic note, theories of evolution generally have nothing to say about the origin of life, only how it changes over time.

And now for something completely different....

Non-Monty Python Monty Python.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

More depressing news....

From the Orlando Sentinel's business section today:

More than one-third of Metro Orlando's employers expect to reduce their staffs during the final three months of the year, according to Manpower Inc.'s latest hiring survey.

The four-county metro area had far more employers with plans to cut back their work forces during the fourth quarter compared with companies elsewhere in the region, across the state or nationwide.

Of those responding to the confidential Manpower Employment Outlook Survey, 35 percent in Orlando said they expected to shrink their staffs during the final quarter, compared with 13 percent nationally and 21 percent statewide. On the plus side, 23 percent of the employers in the metro area -- Orange, Seminole, Osceola and Lake counties -- said they actually expect to add staff during the fourth quarter, slightly better than the state and national percentages. Employers in Volusia and Brevard counties were far more unsure of their plans.

Not good, not good.

Evan Tanner, RIP

The world has lost one of its freer spirits. Evan was one of my favorite fighters, at least as much for his flakiness outside the ring as for his freewheeling style in it. He'll be missed.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Laptop Blogging

That's what I'm doing currently, and it's no fun whatsoever. My brother is once more hitting a rough patch, so I'm at my mother's house blogging from his laptop and starving. Blogging from a laptop isn't very convenient, and I don't see the appeal.

I'm starving because I'm not eating (duh), and I'm not eating for two reasons: first, there's not much to eat here as Mom subsists on cigarettes and coffee; second, Mom's house reeks of cigarette smoke, and she's puffing on more cancer sticks than usual even as her oldest son dies in the other end of the house from lung cancer. (To be fair, my brother still smokes too, when he's well enough.) I did think to bring some food of my own, but the cigarette smoke and the stench of death (or rather, the stench of cancer - you can smell it) are currently winning the battle with my raging stomach. I expect the stomach to win about half hour from now, but currently the olfactory sense is fighting a successful rear-guard action.

PS I'm not looking for sympathy, and I don't want your prayers. You can pray for Mom and my brother if you wish, but not for me. I will explain sometime in the future.

Hey, look who's blogging!

It's the Missus! There's pathos, a painful trip down memory lane, extremism in moderation, and exasperation - and I'm not even responsible for most of the bad stuff! Joe Bob Outis sez, "Check it out!"

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Somehow it keeps getting worse.

Excerpts from Andrew Sullivan, who live blogged Sarah Palin's speech tonight:

10.40 pm. We've just seen a picture of a seven year old cradling and stroking the hair of a Down Syndrome infant. This, apparently, is relevant to deciding who should be the next vice-president of the United States....

10.49 pm. Piper is poking Trig in the eye!...

10.50 pm. I have to say that the affect is of someone running for high school president....

10.56 pm. Obama wants to reduce American power and prevent energy production. The mockery of Obama from Palin is striking. I don't recall anyone mocking McCain at the DNC.

11.05 pm. Every time the camera pans to McCain's mother, she seems mortified. I don't really blame her. Can you imagine what she was thinking as a tiny special needs baby is passed from person to person for the cable news. [Emphasis added]

There are other problems with his commentary, but the most amazing thing is his utter contempt for the Palin family, especially the children. The slam on McCain's mother is also horrible. Hey Andrew, what's it like beating up on infants, little girls and old women? And he has the nerve to complain that Palin attacked Obama! In-fucking-credible.

As for McCain being mocked at the DNC: How about all of the cracks about McCain and his houses? How about this scornful, sneering line from Obama's acceptance speech?
John McCain likes to say that he'll follow bin Laden to the gates of hell — but he won't even go to the cave where he lives.
Wonderful! Obama managed to call McCain a phony and a coward with this line, but Sullivan doesn't think this counts as mockery. And can we mention Obama's continuing misrepresentation of a (admittedly poor) McCain joke? Yes we can!
Now, I don't believe that Sen. McCain doesn't care what's going on in the lives of Americans. I just think he doesn't know. Why else would he define middle class as someone making under 5 million dollars a year?
Obama (knowingly) misrepresents McCain's remark at the Saddleback Forum. Here's McCain's comment in context:
WARREN: Everybody talks about, you know, taxing the rich, but not the poor, the middle class. At what point, give me a number, give me a specific number. Where do you move from middle class to rich? […]

MCCAIN: How about $5 million? No, but seriously, I don’t think you can, I don’t think seriously that the point is I’m trying to make, seriously, and I’m sure that comment will be distorted but the point is…that we want to keep people’s taxes low, and increase revenues. … So, it doesn’t matter really what my definition of rich is because I don’t want to raise anybody’s taxes. I really don’t.
But Obama misrepresents this damned near every time he opens his mouth.

Obama's campaign at the moment seems to be exclusively about two things: McCain can't remember that he has seven houses, and Sarah Palin has only been the Mayor of a small town. Which gets me to another point of mockery: The Democrats have been refusing to acknowledge that Palin has done anything with her life other than be Mayor of a small town.

So, to sum up: mocking Obama's thin résumé is beyond the pale, but attacking children, slandering adults, sneering at old women, calling POWs cowards, and misrepresenting facts lying about one's opponents is okay. The only thing that matters if if you're a Republican (in which case you can do no right) or a Democrat (in which case everything, and I mean everything, is acceptable.)

This is easily the most revolting national campaign I can personally remember.

Added: XWL does an excellent job slagging Sullivan's comments in their entirety.

Sheesh.

I just heard Representative Debbie Wassserman Schultz (D - FL) on Larry King. Apparently the Dems are still saying that Sarah Palin's only experience is as the Mayor of Wasilla. How can a party claim to be serious if they keep putting their fingers in their ears while yelling "NAH! NAH! NAH! CAN'T HEAR YOU!" Or are they so incompetent that they don't know who the Governor of Alaska is? This is simply embarassing.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Email

Here's an email my wife sent me today.

So, I'm reading this article on CNN.

Do these sentences go together?

A recent Rutgers University study said historically, women don't vote for a candidate because a woman is on the ticket. They tend to vote Democratic.

That happened in 1984 for former New York Rep. Geraldine Ferraro, the first female vice presidential of a major political party. Despite the historic nature of the race, her addition to Walter Mondale's ticket proved fruitless.

If I didn't know better, I would say that this portion of the article is claiming that women didn't for the ticket with Ferraro because they voted Democratic instead.

Grr.

Where I'm At

Snapshots of the view around my house taken back in April

First the backyard, which looks into a wetland/swamp. The line of ferns in the first picture starts about 12-15 feet behind the house. These show the view from the window beside my computer.
Kudzu, not visible in these pictures, now dominates the whole area. One can see a small patch of sky in the backyard, but only if you look straight up - no horizons here.

Instead of showing the house across the street, I'll show you a shot between two of the houses across the street.

That's a lake behind them. Here's a better picture of that lake from a few houses down the street. They DO have a horizon on that side of the street - but we've got privacy.

The tree below is in my neighbors front yard. The tree got bent in Hurricane Charlie in 2004 - it used to be straight. The line gives some idea of how far from true it is now.This may not look impressive, but it is. That line of trees behind the houses shielded us from the worst of the winds in that storm. Every taller tree on our side of the street got blown over, including two trees no longer in our front yard. This tree, about 15 ft tall and shielded by a strand of trees and a house, got bent by winds that occasionally gusted downward.

Let me give another example of what these downward gusts can do. In the first line of trees in our backyard we had a scrub oak that for some reason had decided to grow along the ground instead of up. (I imagine that some ground collapsed around it's roots.) The trunk grew from north to south. It got caught by a down blast in Charlie which bent the trunk (about a foot thick) until it snapped and flipped the tree over so that it now grows from south to north. (Part of the trunk survived, so the tree has not died.) That blast that snapped that tree and flipped it around hit less than 20 feet from our house! In fact I can't be certain that it didn't hit our house, but we only suffered the loss of one panel of screen on the back porch. Sustained 110 mph winds are no fun!This picture looks across a retention pond four houses down from our place - it's the same swamp from the first few pictures. Those trees probably saved us from a lot of damage in 2004.

Hysterical

A great send up!



Favorite line: "If you want to be President I suggest you enuciate."

H/T Althouse

Added: Heather, somehow this reminds me of you.

An Exercise in Testicular Fortitude

Seriously, the dude's got balls to predict every game in the NFL 2008 regular season. Good luck, my friend! At least until you trash my teams....

The Joy of Procrastination

Procrastination certainly has its pleasures. First amongst these is the joy that comes from a long delayed task suddenly becoming irrelevant - if your house gets flooded then it doesn't matter if you put off the dusting and vacuuming for a couple of days. (And in that scenario you need to take what pleasures you can!)

Another potential pleasure happens when someone does the job for you. This pleasure may be dampened by feelings of guilt - you didn't do the dusting and vacuuming, so your spouse did it for you. Of course, if the house gets flooded two days later you can say, "See? This is why I was putting that off."

But it is also possible for someone to do something for you, and to do it better than you could have done it yourself, and to feel no remorse at all. For example, I've been meaning to write about the potential irrational behavior of scientists for some time. I even had examples lined up of very intelligent scientists committing acts of nonsense in the guise of rationality.

But happily Razib has done the job for me, so now all I have to do is add a link.

Keeping Score

It turns out that one of my prophecies didn't come to pass - this time. This is good. But New Orleans will eventually get hit by the Big One, and it will end up underwater. And at some future point beyond that, it will happen again. In the part of the world that New Orleans inhabits, as in my own home state, hurricanes are inevitable.

However, I will eventually get a Palin Prophecy correct. Given that I've predicted three outcomes (neutral impact on race, disaster for McCain, disaster for Obama, in order of probability), I have to get one of them right!

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Comment of the Day

It's by someone called Statsquatch over at this post on Steve Sailer's blog. Take it away Statsquatch!

Best election ever!

When the declawed Black Panther wannabe picked the lamest white man in government (from Delaware the lamest state) I thought the laughs were over. But then Yosemite Sam picks Palin, people started talking about her cubs and the whiter people start freaking out. I thought the only thing Alaska had to offer America was porn, whiskey and government jobs. Palin for supreme leader!
One minor quibble - I'm pretty sure Chris Dodd is even lamer than Biden.

Feeding Frenzy

This is my second stab at this post. Originally I wrote a few hundred words and then realized I had gone off on the wrong track. So now for "Feeding Frenzy, Mark II."

In recent days we have seen the media (both Legacy and New) go after Sarah Palin through her children. First they went after her new born, claiming that he wasn't actually her son but her grandson. Eventually it came out that Palin's oldest daughter is pregnant at age 17. So for the last 36 hours or so the media has been all over Palin on that count.

Here's the thing - the media is making a GIGANTIC deal out of the vagina and uterus of a 17 year-old in order to trash her mother. That's pretty shabby. But what's really shabby is that the media is pretending that this is a legitimate story for round-the-clock coverage while completely ignoring more important stories involving adult children of one of the other candidates. Why all this focus and scandal mongering about a 17 year-old's sexual proclivities, and hardly a word about Joe Biden's son Hunter.

Hunter Biden is 38 and, unlike young Bristol Palin, has entered into the realm of politics of his own volition. Hunter Biden is a lawyer and a lobbyist. The interesting part concerns Hunter's clients. For example Hunter Biden received $400,000 in consulting fees from MBNA - which benefited greatly from a bankruptcy bill championed by Hunter's father, Senator Joe Biden.

And then there's the University of Delaware. Over the years UD has paid over $1,000,000 to Hunter Biden's lobbying firm. Since 2004 UD has received over $5,000,000 in earmarks, in large part from Joe Biden.

These lobbying efforts COULD have been on the up & up. And of course Obama's campaign insists that Hunter never lobbied his father. But at the very least the media could have tried investigating these stories a little more deeply. How about following up on the payment scheme at the lobbying firm? (As I recall that firm often consisted of only two people.) How much money did Hunter Biden make from entities that lobbied his father for government cash? Has Hunter's firm had other clients that directly benefited from decisions made by Joe Biden?

These stories have been around, and after Barack Obama picked Joe Biden to be his running mate they surfaced again. They disappeared almost as quickly. Now, which story seems more pertinent to the national interest - a story about a 17 year-old having sex in a small town, or the story of a potential corruption by a powerful Senator?

Personal Note

My brother's health has improved again over the last few days. We have officially entered the roller coaster portion of the illness.

Executive Experience

Sigh.

(CNN) — Barack Obama defended his experience in dealing with natural disasters, such as Hurricane Katrina, and took a swipe at newly minted GOP vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin.

In an interview on CNN's Anderson Cooper 360 Monday night, Obama was asked about whether his experience in the U.S. Senate dealing with weather-related situations compares to Palin’s executive experience running the state of Alaska and as the small town mayor of Wasilla, Alaska.

“My understanding is that Gov. Palin’s town, Wassilla [sic], has I think 50 employees. We've got 2500 in this campaign. I think their budget is maybe 12 million dollars a year – we have a budget of about three times that just for the month,” Obama responded.

Our ability to manage large systems and to execute I think has been made clear over the past couple of years and certainly in terms of the legislation I’ve passed in the past couple of years, post-Katrina.”
I hardly know where to begin with this. Obama is quick to point out that his campaign is larger than the government of Wasilla (whose name CNN misspells) both in terms of employees and in terms of budget. Of course, Obama completely ignores that she hasn't been mayor of Wasilla since 2002. In 2002 Obama was a state senator from the South Side of Chicago, and as unknown on the national scene as the Mayor of Wasilla.

But for most of the last two years, while Obama has been running for President, Palin has been Governor of Alaska. Alaska's budget for fiscal 2008 projects ~$13.3 billion in revenue, with total outlays of ~$11.5 billion. That's almost a billion a month, which dwarfs Obama's total campaign budget, even accounting for the way he burns through money. I haven't been able to find a reliable number telling me how many state employees ultimately report to the Governor, but given the size of the budget it's probably at least as large as Obama's campaign staff.

Now the question is, why did Obama ignore this? The answer is obvious: Acknowledging that Palin has been Governor of Alaska for the last two years dwarfs any executive experience he acquired the last two years. Thus he brings up Palin's experience as town mayor from over half a decade ago and hopes that we're all too stupid to notice the giant gaping hole in his argument.

I will also point out that passing legislation about natural disasters is hardly the same thing as executive experience, even if he or his staff were responsible for the legislation, instead of merely another useless co-sponsor.

But neither Obama nor his supporters will face the fact that he is astoundingly inexperienced. The worst single example was given by Mort Kondrake over the weekend on Fox News Channel, who said that Obama had the experience to be President because he's been running for President for several years. Amazing! By this formulation Lyndon LaRouche, Angela Davis and the late Pat Paulsen were all imminently qualified to be President. Hell, I'm building up my own qualifications for the job as I write! I won't win this year, but in 2012 I'll be more ready for the job than Obama is right now!

Obama's supporters are free to support him for the job. They're free to either ignore his lack of executive experience and/or to think said experience is over-rated. But don't tell the rest of us that your guy DOES have executive experience when he clearly doesn't. It's the dishonesty, stupid!

What voting is....

Adapted from a comment elsewhere on this blog

I have supported the Republican Party for stretches in the past because I thought they were marginally less bad than the Democrats on most issues, and somewhat less bad on a couple of issues. At the moment I no longer feel there’s enough difference between them to bother voting for one or the other. I haven't been under the illusion that the parties are for anything OTHER than themselves for a very long time.

In all my life, I have never been helped by the Democratic Party. I haven't been helped much by the Republican Party either, save on the issue of tax breaks. (Interesting aside: When I got a tax break from W., Democrats said I was rich. I had to be rich, because they said only the rich got tax breaks from W. When the Democrats took back both houses of Congress after the 2006 election, I became poor. Nancy Pelosi promised to give tax breaks to those poor middle class citizens making between $100K and $500K a year by "reforming" the Alternate Minimum Tax. Since I didn't make enough to pay the AMT, I had to be poor. My income was climbing steadily through that time. So somehow according to the Democratic Party I had gone from rich to poor, had managed to get tax breaks that I didn't deserve because I was too rich, and then couldn't get any more tax breaks because I was too poor, all while making ever greater amounts of money. Someone somewhere is deeply confused about things.)

But neither party has done anything to improve my life substantially – that I have done myself, or I have had the help of individuals as individuals. Political parties just haven't mattered.

Regardless, I don't feel the need for the government to help me in all cases. On some matters it is incontestably their responsibility - police work, for example. Unfortunately, they haven't been that good at it this year.

Foreign policy is another matter that falls under the government’s rubric - it is the rare individual that has foreign policy clout. (And given the results that we've seen from George Soros and Arman Hammer perhaps we'd be better off if fewer did.)

But health care? The government has some interests there (vaccinations, sewage treatment), but that doesn't mean they should pick up the tab for my doctors visits. In fact, a not-to-careful examination of Medicare demonstrates that the more government has interfered with health care, the more expensive it has become. (The size of Medicare and the complexity of the billing and approval procedures have meant that even people who don't qualify for Medicare or Medicaid are subject to its dictates. This is why doctors’ offices have such large administrative staffs these days.) I have no doubt that any thorough cost/benefit analysis of Medicare would show that it has done far more harm than good.

In another area where government has held the reins, education, the Democratic Party hasn't exactly shown itself to be brilliant. I'm too lazy to look it up now, but at the recent Democratic National Convention a working group of several hundred Democratic delegates basically admitted that they've been wrong on education for decades, and that their slavish devotion to the teachers' unions have been harmful. I'm glad they've finally admitted it, but how much damage has been done in the meantime? Again, large government involvement has been no panacea.

Over and over again we've seen large organizations run over individuals. That includes churches, businesses and governments - especially governments, as they're the biggest of the big. This is backed up by even a cursory reading of history, in any time frame since agriculture led to civilization.

But people keep telling me, and the Democrats keep telling me, that MORE is always BETTER, especially if the DEMS are in charge. That just doesn't follow. Instead it looks like just another chance for those holding the strings to get rich. For example, the way Joe Biden has enriched his family by funneling lobbyist money to his son in return for earmarks and sweetheart legislation. He's supposed to be a man of the people, but Joe's just another crook, like Harry Reid and his land scams, Pelosi and her self-serving tax breaks, or Ted Stevens' innovative home repair program. And it is impossible to believe that Obama went into the "go along to get along and look how far he's gone" Chicago morass and come out of it clean. It's easy enough to surmise that he's dirty as hell even if one doesn't know about his dealings with Tony Rezko or the scam he and his wife ran to get her a huge raise while screwing indigent patients, all the while sticking it to the US tax payer. (I'm not even going to bother adding links for the Obama stuff. It's too well known, and I'm tired of digging it up continually.)

So don't tell me that the Democrats have anything OTHER than their own pockets in mind when they're running for office, and I won't tell you the Republicans are a bunch of sweet innocent lambs. Voting is just a matter of deciding which crooks will either (a) screw the country the least, or (b) toss us some crumbs. And that's all it is.

Crooks 6, Cops 0

Today (or rather, yesterday), I discovered that my Mom's car has been vandalized again. That marks (I think) the fourth time this year. It might actually be more than that, as I have honestly lost track. Add to that the time her home was invaded and the time my house was burglarized, and the crooks have run up six goals this year. The cops haven't stopped any of these, nor have they caught any of the perps, even when everyone involved has known who the perps were. So, Crook 6, Cops 0. Perhaps that should actually be Cop -1, as they made as big a mess as the Crooks did when they dusted our house for finger prints after the burglary. Not a good year for the Cops. Perhaps we should institute a Mercy Rule....