Overhead projector

Here's a picture of the $3 million overhead projector that McCain was ranting about last night. It's actually a star projector. You know, for a planetarium. Not quite what he made it sound like.


Thoughts on the last debate

Going through the debate mostly chronologically:

McCain looked like an old man. A really old man. And that blinking thing he does really bothers me. He lost big time on the visuals. Oh, and he wasn't wearing a flag pin.

McCain's plan for the government to buy up mortgages of people who can't pay. For the sake of argument, let's assume that these people should have been given a loan in the first place (although many of them probably shouldn't have). A lot of these loans are in CDOs so that the ownership of each mortgage is spread between several entities. Either you have to buy all of the pieces (which may be a part of another CDO) and reassemble the loan, or somehow declare these CDOs void. The first way is hard, and the second is the government arbitrarily seizing investments. Not a particularly good plan.

Obama did a good job of tieing McCain to Bush, and McCain did a terrible job distancing himself from Bush. McCain has lost that narrative. He should have saved his Maverick card for last in the general election. It's just old and tired now.

If McCain is going to use ACORN and Bill Ayers, I'm going to pull out The Keating Five and Alaska Secessionists. Good on Obama for not stooping to that level. He should stick to policy.

McCain needs a refresher on Keynesian Economics. When the depression hits, spend more. When good times return, tax more. Balanced budgets amplify business cycles.

Alaskan oil reserves are pitifully small. The entire US oil reserves are just 21 billion barrels. Americans use 20 million barrels per day. Some simple math shows thats slightly less than a 3 year supply. By both McCain's and Obama's estimates, it will take at least 8 years to get off foreign oil. Drilling won't help much, and we should preserve our wilderness.

Also in the energy policy section, McCain had a weird answer where he mentioned six or seven different things back to back. I didn't get a chance to get them all down because it was really confusing. He can't seem to stay on topic here. Major fail.

McCain's health care plan is either stupid or smarter than I am. That's really bad for him, because if I'm having a hard time with it, I guarantee that others aren't getting it either. He said the average plan cost $5,800 a year, and he's going to give a $5,000 tax credit so that people can go puchase whatever plan they want. Call me crazy, but that's not a net savings for the tax payer. And if you are over average, then I guess you just have to eat the difference.

On Roe v. Wade, McCain basically said that anyone who agrees with the ruling isn't qualified to be on the Supreme Court. And he doesn't have an ideological litmus test. The stupid, it burns.


Dear McCain

I'm not your biggest fan, but I do agree with you on a number of issues and with the Republicans about half the time. You have run a terrible campaign. At this point, you need to decide where your loyalties lie.

If you strongly believe in the principles you and the Republican Party espouse, you need to do some damage control, because the tactics you have used have hurt public support for them, and in this Internet connected society, old ghosts can pop up at the most inopportune moments. You should distance yourself from the Republican Party, and earnestly take up a ridiculous positions or two (i.e. chicken abortion rights). You will lose the election, and your political career will most likely end in the next Senatorial race. By convincing everyone you are senile, it will put the Republican Party in better shape to win in 2012.

If all you care about is having a shot at the Oval Office, you have the right idea. Palin is an embarassment to everyone that isn't a Christian. Don't let her do interviews. Absolutely let her make scripted speeches because she appeals to the Fundamentalist Christians, but don't let her answer extemporaneous questions. You screwed up on the bailout. If you had voted against it, you could have admonished Obama for spending taxpayer money for no effect, so talk about anything but the economy. There are a number of issues that you could potentially get votes from Obama on: gun control, energy, the space program. You will take some hits for ignoring the big issues on people's minds, but it's better than looking like the fool you are. Marginally.

So make your choice. Choose what's best for the principles you profess, or choose what's the best for you personally. You can't have both anymore.


Liveblogging the VP Debate

7:58: Waiting for the debate to start. I can't watch any of the predebate coverage because I'm streaming it, and none of the major networks have their regular TV online.

8:01: It's starting. yay!

8:02: Palin's strategy, right off the bat, is to appear friendly and likeable. Predictable, but effective.

8:05: Sounds like Palin is trying to make the case for more regulation, very interesting. Looks like they've given up on the libertarians.

8:07: Palin learned from McCain's debate mistakes. Looking at Biden. Talking to the camera

8:11: Biden's trying to paint McCain as a flip-flopper. I think that won't stick.

8:12: Yes, raising taxes on people making $42,000 a year will kill jobs. Really.

8:17: Palin just said tax credits don't cost the government any money. The mind boggles.

8:20: Biden is getting really specific on the Health care thing. His numbers sound good, but not having ever paid for health care, wouldn't know if they are anywhere near right

8:21: Biden gaffed. Can't seem to pronouce words. Who will latch onto that?

8:23: Palin doesn't make sense. She would give big companies tax breaks, but she had to undo tax breaks for the big oil companies.

8:25: Biden is trying to win on issues, not narrative. I predict a slim Palin victory.

8:27: Both candidates are trying to claim seeing the subprime crisis coming. So I wonder why it was such a big problem.

8:29: Palin wants to drill in ANWR, which has ~10 billion barrels in reserves. We use 150 billion barrels per year.

8:32: Palin was talking pro-environment, sounded like some Kyoto style carbon caps (She did!). Biden was talking pro-nuclear. Crazy talk.

8:35: Biden just affirmed same-sex marriage (or equivalent). As a bisexual, I approve.

8:36: Palin just said sexual orientation is a choice. I don't like that.

8:38: I think the moderator just messed up. Should have pressed Palin to affirm or deny the need for same sex unions.

8:41: Palin: "Obama didn't fund/support the troops." Biden: "McCain did that same thing." That narrative doesn't work well.

8:42: Biden screwed up. Acting angry toward your female debate partner will not score you any points with the electorate. Especially because she just acted a bit sheepish when she responded.

8:45: Biden said we should withdraw our attention from Iraq and focus more on Afghanistan. Brings up the spectre of Al Qaeda and Bin Laden. Good narrative.

8:47: Palin says, "Nucular". Vote Obama/Biden to protect the English language!

8:51: Palin: If we don't support Israel, there will be another Holocaust. I call Godwin's Law. Biden Wins.

8:53: Palin only respects positions she agrees with. That's some scary shit.

8:54: Biden tried to stick McCain with the "Like Bush" sign. Palin repeated the 'Mavrik' schtick. Biden wins the facts. Palin wins the narrative.

8:56: Palin: We shouldn't let rogue states have "nucular" weapons. I say Christians that believe in the end times should have them either.

8:58: Biden makes a good point about ignoring Afghanistan. I think this is a winning narrative. Support the troops in Afghanistan.

9:02: Biden is trying to get people to feel for the genocide in Darfur. I think he is underestimating the ability of Americans to restrict their empathy.

9:04: Joe Biden, it is also a bad idea to try to make an intellectual argument laying out the ethical necessity for a strategy for engagement, even with genocide.

9:06: Palin: Did you know? John McCain was in the military! (and a pow)

9:07: Biden: Obama dying in office would be worse than the JFK assassination.

9:08: Palin: We are maveriks!!!

9:10: Biden is still trying to equate McCain with Bush. Palin chastises him for looking backwards. I think Palin's response fell flat.

9:13: Palin: The VP should have more power to make the Senate do the President's will.

9:15: Palin gets less eloquent the more she is trying to dodge the question.

9:17: Biden has great energy, but it often seems like anger. Seems like a bad impression to me.

9:21: Did you know... McCain's a maverick!

9:22: Palin makes a Freudian slip: "He's that man we need to leave" (meant to say "lead")

9:24: Good final question: Have you ever changed your view on an important matter of policy?

9:25: Palin is really good at avoiding the questions she doesn't want to answer. Totally ignored the last question.

9:26: Just noticed that Palin is wearing a flag pin.

9:29: Just learned a new term from Palin: National Security Freedoms. I suppose we are free to bomb third world countries.

9:30: Biden is wearing a flag pin, too. No terrorists here.

9:33: The candidates made their kids sit through that?

9:34: Palin and Biden were talking about something while standing with their families after the debate, but the sound was turned off. It seemed friendly, but I'm curious as to what it was.

General impression: Biden answered the questions more and was better with facts, but Palin totally won on delivery, narrative, and general connection with voters. Slim victory to Palin.


Adventures in newspeak: "Authority"

Adventures in Newspeak is a series that highlights the perversities of English that strongly contribute to an oppresive, hierarchical society.

The word "authority" has always bothered me, and Mike Gogulski has given me a chance to explain why. The word authority conflates two separate and only slightly correlated concepts, and this conflation reinforces oppresive power structures. The document that he links to especially irritates me because of how it dances around this extremely problematic word instead of pulling it apart.

Sometimes we use the word authority to mean expertise or knowledgeability, i.e. "In the matter of boots, I refer to the authority of the bootmaker; concerning houses, canals, or railroads, I consult that of the architect or the engineer." (from above linked document) Substitue "knowledge" or "expertise" for "authority" and the sentence does not change meaning. Other times we use the word authority to mean power or control, i.e. "How Much Authority Does the President Possess When He Is Acting as "Commander In Chief"?" (from here) In context, this doesn't ask how expertly the President performs the duties of a Commander-In-Chief, but rather what powers he has in such a situation.

Using the same word for both of these concepts implies that those with power have the knowledge to use it well, and that those with knowledge will gain the power to put it to good use. Ideally this is the case, but it often doesn't quite work that way (just look at the economy). The post that Mike is responding to doesn't even use the word authority, but he inserts it anyways, even though Alberto clearly says which kind of authority he objects to ("oppressive forces weigh down on the average college student"). This arbitrary reinvention of someone's words does not further the deconstruction of power hierarchies.

I am not accusing Mike of intentionally twisting words, or arguing in bad faith. I am simply trying to illuminate an oddity of English that hinders communication so that we can have a more constructive conversation.



Conversations in My Room 1

So I show my roommate this.

Roommate: Is she just trying to make all women in power look stupid?
<pregnant pause>
Me: Yeah, sounds about right.

Biggest Story of the Election

The lobbying firm of McCain's campaign manager Rick Davis has been getting $15,000 a month from Freddie Mac until last month. I'm sure this had nothing at all to do with McCain's support of the Freddie and Fannie nationalizations. This flies in the face of statements made by McCain as recently as this past Sunday and which Palin repeated in this interview:

One of the giant mortgage companies at the heart of the credit crisis paid $15,000 a month from the end of 2005 through last month to a firm owned by Senator John McCain’s campaign manager, according to two people with direct knowledge of the arrangement.

The disclosure undercuts a remark by Mr. McCain on Sunday night that the campaign manager, Rick Davis, had had no involvement with the company for the last several years.

Now someone has been lying here. If we assume that McCain lied to us, why we are the Republicans promoting a liar as president? If we assume that Davis lied to McCain, why does McCain associate with liars, and what does that say about him and his ability to pick and vet advisors? Shouldn't a president(-ial candidate) know potential sources of bias in his/her advisors?


A fearful servant

And a terrible master.


McCain is scared of reporters

Look at his body language. He's tense, blinks a lot, and forces a smile for the first half of the interview. He relaxes a little bit after the really hard questions get asked, but even at the end he is stiff. It doesn't reflect well on his experience if he is still scared of reporters after all these years, now does it?


The FM's

The government has taken over Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac:
Federal regulators on Sunday took over the failing Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac mortgage companies, quasi-government entities that got into trouble with subprime lending. Officials with the Treasury Department, the Federal Reserve and the Federal Housing Finance Agency seized control of embattled mortgage giants in hopes of stabilizing the housing and financial markets.
Since the people are the government, and those 2 companies account for half of the mortgages in the country, does that mean half of the country now owes themselves for their house? This is all fallout from the subprime lending thing. Why is the focus on bailing out the failing banks, and not on bailing out the homeowners? It takes 2 to make a loan, so the banks are at least as much at fault as the borrowers. It's really just the elites looking out for themselves.

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