Saturday, September 27, 2008

Talking Ecology to Teens

This is actually a bit sad. Hayden Panettiere, in a bid to get American youths to register to vote and then go actually vote, received a lukewarm reception from her targeted audience. You'd think that a teen star with little in the way of controversy (aside from her dad) would have a bigger impact than that. Yes, she should have taken a more forceful line, but her attitude toward how she uses energy at home should take precedent over how well she invoked the youth to vote. But obviously the folks at Trendhunter think differently. Just sad is all.

Friday, September 26, 2008

We Have the Facts and We're Voting Yes

From The New York Times:

In the Roosevelt Room after the session, the Treasury secretary, Henry M. Paulson Jr., literally bent down on one knee as he pleaded with Nancy Pelosi, the House Speaker, not to “blow it up” by withdrawing her party’s support for the package over what Ms. Pelosi derided as a Republican betrayal.

“I didn’t know you were Catholic,” Ms. Pelosi said, a wry reference to Mr. Paulson’s kneeling, according to someone who observed the exchange. She went on: “It’s not me blowing this up, it’s the Republicans.”

Mr. Paulson sighed. “I know. I know.”

I doubt anyone needs me to repeat the sense of urgency within the administration to have legislation in place to sign as soon as possible. It's actually quite stunning that, after days and days of negotiations, making compromises and ironing out the details of a real plan for the Wall Street bailout, a few congressional Republicans would walk into a meeting with the president of the United States, member of their own party, and throw all of that work out the window. For once it looked like Congress was responding swiftly and with appropriate measures to a serious problem and the House Republicans want to quibble over alternatives when the financial markets could actually collapse worldwide if a plan isn't figured out? Who the fuck are they? I hope Rep. Boehner loses his seat this election. I also hope he loses his balls. Was this done because there truely was serious concern about the plan and alternative plans that could be moved into place quickly? No, in fact the congressional Democrats and the administration are on the same page. But because presidential candidate Sen. John fucking McCain (who asked no questions from Treasury Secretary Paulson while his opponent did) hasn't had the chance to do enough grandstanding. Sen. McCain can't participate in the debates but he can make the network interview circuits. What the fuck is wrong with the GOP? Are they really willing to risk further instability just so their candidate can look presidential? Beating Sen. Obama is so important that the GOP is willing to let Wall Street fall. Fuck every single one of them.

I Burn

Huh, so AC/DC, The Beatles and Kid Rock don't want their albums potentially sold as individual songs thus they boycott iTunes. You know, I really think the drive to online music purchases will take a steep dive after such innovative and respected luminaries as Kid Rock and AC/DC stand up to the monopoly of the mp3...more than a decade after the mp3 became popularized...and six years of mp3 player sales...and diving album sales...and the clear choice of the consumer to purchase the music they wanted and not the music they didn't. Yeah, Apple and Amazon are shitting themselves right now for fear that Kid Rock fans will leave them en masse. Steve Jobs is actually in hiding from the entire AC/DC roadie crew.
Oh, by the way, fire hot. We should boycott that too.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Bat-Shit Crazy Scientists Need Love Too

You know, for a nation that constantly complains of waste within the government it's odd that Congress would make another $130 million cut to DARPA. This piece from Wired's Danger Room blog discusses the cut-backs Congress keeps approving to DARPA (who, by the way, brought you the Internet) due to "poor execution". DARPA still has a budget approaching $3 billion but the reasoning behind the cuts defies good sense.
Now the guys at DARPA are the ones who come up with the bat-shit crazy ideas that, when turned into reality, dramatically enhance our technological edge; the use of analog computer to compile artillery trajectories during WWI and the efforts during WWII to decode enemy encryption using analog computers drove refinements of computer design at a far greater pace than during peace-time before hand. Using flat angles on an aircraft to deflect radar signals was another DARPA-led innovation. So DARPA is a damn important wing of the U.S. military and the world at large.
So why is Congress cutting funding under the claim of "poor execution"? Well folks, that's what happens when you have a department head who doesn't want to waste time and money on projects that produce little results or on companies that can't deliver the goods on time and on budget. He'd rather see that money go to other potential projects. While you'd might think that since DARPA is obviously being so efficiently run that such cuts in funding won't affect it you'd miss the larger point--DARPA is the acronym for bat-shit crazy ideas. If a few million spent on one project doesn't produce results then it gets pulled and put into other programs that already are working or new projects that have good potential. More importantly, the DARPA chief is obviously not one to waste time on a company that peddles excuses versus ordered goods.
Instead of cutting DARPA's budget, Congress should use DARPA as a model for all other military programs. By expecting on-time results we'd might see a huge decrease in defense spending. Of course, that could only happen in a world where congressmen and military brass don't find cushy jobs in the defense industries and use their old ties to keep such a brazenly good idea from happening.

Rusty, Violent Ghosts

Now this is the kind of out of your ass political post that I can get behind. Spencer Ackerman has spent a lot of time around political bloggers so it's hard to say that he's gone completely off the reservation here. He does specialize in foreign policy but he maintains that awareness of the political world needed to understand the ramifications of various foreign actions and how they will play with Congress and the White House. I have to say though, I'm not entirely positive that Ackerman gets it right here when he says Sen. McCain just lost the election. I do think though that Sen. McCain has put himself in a bind of his own making. And after Letterman's railing against the senator, particularly over the fact that he should have put his running mate in charge of things while he goes back to D.C. and does what he thinks needs doing, canceling Friday's debate in a possible attempt to forego a VP debate will spur a lot of finger-pointing if he does lose. It really does look like a campaign that's watching one of its wheels pass them on the highway and wondering what happens when the car stops.

David Letterman Gets Feisty

After hearing about it all night finally there's video of David Letterman's annoyance with Sen. McCain suspending his campaign, canceling his appearance on Letterman's show claiming he was headed straight to D.C. and then doing an interview with Katie Couric of CBS News at the same time he was supposed to arrive for his taped appearance. It's pretty fair to say Letterman was not pleased.

What's McArdle Smoking Tonight?

This post by McArdle is one of the reasons why I'm about to drop her out of my blog reader. It is honestly a blatantly dumb assessment of the politics behind Sen. McCain's decision to suspend his campaign. As Sen. Obama has said, when the time comes to vote, he will be there to cast his vote. Otherwise, all of the nonsense that travels with a presidential campaign shouldn't be anywhere near D.C. at this moment. Yes, the president should talk to both the candidates just to ensure there's no last minute back-stabbing. Beyond that, Sen. Obama is right to say that a president has to do more than one thing at once and again I make my point that the president has to deal with a large organization at the same time a crisis erupts. You don't get to call a fucking mulligan when you're president. So why McArdle has chosen this moment to make some half-hearted political analysis that she has little experience doing when the Atlantic has several other more experienced political bloggers is more than a little baffling. Just stick with what you know McArdle, which is economics and you know it well. That's what you're being paid for. Let others like me who are comfortable talking out of our asses handle this.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

I Want To Touch It

Holy shit, I think my brain just orgasmed.

Obama v. Palin: Now Taking Bets

I was wondering when someone would suggest Gov. Palin take Sen. McCain's place in Friday's debate. Personally, I say go for it. It would put Gov. Palin before the public against the candidate who took down Hilary Clinton. Sen. Obama could simply deflect any criticism that he was too harsh on Gov. Palin by saying that since she was acting in Sen. McCain's place she should have the same tough debating skills as her running mate. It plays well for Sen. Obama in a lot of ways--allowing him to zero in on Gov. Palin's inexperience and inadiquicies while using the cover that Sen. McCain is a tough debator and Sen. Obama expected the same from someone entrusted to represent Sen. McCain in a presidential debate. The right will cry sexism but that's only after Sen. Obama slices open Gov. Palin on live national television. After that kind of evisceration, I don't think any of the undecideds will have a problem voting for Sen. Obama.

Gambler's Odds

I'm not going to bother with linking to all the blogs talking about Sen. McCain's maneuvering since it seems that just about every other post is about said maneuvering. Instead, I'm going to emulate the senator from Arizona and just shoot from the hip here.
There are several possible reasons for suspending a campaign so close to an election, even a presidential election. The death of a spouse or president would qualify and have a real touch of class to it. Suspending a campaign, just days before the first debate, on the basis that Congress and the country need the candidate in Washington D.C. to save everything just smacks of narcissism (particularly when the Senate Majority leader tells you not to come). It also smacks of desperation within the campaign and a potential financial crisis of their own. And that's only the basic political assumptions that immediately jump to mind.
Pure political gamesmanship aside, what do such actions say of a presidential candidate? What's striking about Sen. McCain's actions/gambit is the high probability of exposing yourself to the attack line of being unable to handle the every day tasks of the president and a major crisis at the same time. Not to praise the man, but even President Bush is able to do it to some degree. That Sen. McCain has opened himself to such an attack is about as close to electoral suicide as you can get without photos of the senator with a rough trick name Billy and the motel sign in the background. It's not simply the hit to Sen. McCain's experience platform, it's a controlled detonation of the image that the senator can deal with the major problems of our generation.
The other serious problem of the McCain campaign suspension is the practical issue of presidential debates. While Sen. McCain may claim the financial crisis is too important for a distraction like a debate, it comes off more as an attempt to avoid such a debate at this time. One of the comparisons being bandied about is a college student asking for an extension on their paper. While that's fine for a college student, John McCain is a major party candidate for president of the fucking United States. You don't get extensions or absences. You don't get to skip work for a day or call in sick. Is that fair? Of course not, but that's the job Sen. McCain is applying for. Now is the moment when you get to take a look at the resumes of two qualified individuals and find out which one can handle the job. Clearly, at this point, it's Sen. Obama. He's taken the Wall Street meltdown in stride, keeping in contact with the necessary people while running a presidential campaign. In point of fact, Sen. Obama is doing two jobs at once as he is still trying to keep up with his work in the Senate and run for president at the same time. In this game there are no time outs or extensions.
All of which is to say I think Sen. McCain made a major mistake today. While he may have rallied the social conservative base with his pick of Gov. Palin as his running mate, the moderates and independents still need courting. Exposing yourself to the attack of being unable to run a major organization during a crisis does not instill confidence in the undecided part of the electorate. What's more, using the financial crisis as an excuse to duck a debate only exacerbates the intensity of such an attack. Sen. McCain has exposed a serious weakness with more than a month of campaign left. The press isn't exactly his friend anymore and a good number of people are already unsure about his abilities to run the nation while dealing with the multiple crises that already exist. Sen. McCain may like to gamble but lately his bets haven't paid off in the big ways he needed them to; and as gamblers like to say, "if you play long enough the house will always win." It's just sad to see a man I once could respect fall so low.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

The Philosophers Were Right

I can't quite remember which philosopher talked about this first or in the most detail (Nietzsche's a possibility but so is W.V.O. Quine), but there's a fairly respected idea that states all thought is preceded by belief. If you say something like, "The sun rises in the east," whether this is true or not you are, in fact, saying, "I believe the sun rises in the east." With scientific facts their truthfulness isn't terribly debatable but even there you have to believe the facts are true. And even when you knowingly lie you have to believe what you say is a lie.
So it doesn't come as a surprise that when studying belief and disbelief as it relates to the brain you would find the region of the brain attached to belief would act the same way whether that belief was logical or emotional. Now Sam Harris is an ardent atheist and someone who has debated Andrew Sullivan on religion so one would think that such results would please Harris. However, what the results show is that the philosophers were right to say that belief precedes all thought. And once again the philosophers lead the way in the study of the mind. I do so love it when that happens.