Thursday, October 30, 2008

A break from politics

Alton Brown on Donuts

Well, he does talk about change vs. conservatism, but not really in a political way, just life.
We have a neighbor whose kid has really, really bad allergies, and she's (quite reasonably) nervous about letting them trick or treat. So she's spent the day going around the neighborhood giving special candy to all the houses in the neighborhood so her kids can trick or treat safely.

I've got to admit, that's pretty awesome.
I watched last night's infomercial for socialism live, while the Tivo recorded Next Top Model. Gotta have priorities. If you missed it and wish you hadn't, there's video here.

Basically, I think he nailed it. Watching it, I realized that I couldn't remember the last time I felt like there was someone in office who actually cared what was happening with people like me (actually, I can, it was pre-Lewinsky Clinton) and who had the brains and character to fix the economy and handle our foreign policy well.

I could particularly identify with the North Kansas City woman at the very beginning of the program. There was a time when every year was a little bit easier than the year before, as my savings grew and my debt shrank. Things were tight from time to time, but the overall trend was that things were getting easier. Not for the past several years. And that's just on a personal level. I read enough to know that our infrastructure is crumbling, schools are going downhill, fewer people are starting new businesses, and fewer immigrants are coming to this country to make their dreams come true, which is something that's always been a new gain for our economy and our culture.

The country's been going downhill for years now, and the response from the Republican Party has been to treat it like a marketing problem.

I don't know if you've seen it in your part of the world, but the Republicans have been running an ad here locally with a striking visual: an empty chair in the Oval Office. I know it's supposed to be an attack on Barack Obama, telling me that he's not ready, but that's not what I think of when I see that empty chair. I think of the last 8 years.

We need leadership in Washington. Real leadership. McCain loves to pretend that he's the real leader, but just look at the campaign he's running. If running almost entirely negative ads and picking Palin were his ideas, then he doesn't have the character to lead this country. And if they weren't, if the party apparatchiks and campaign consultants railroaded them through, then he's not a leader, he's a figurehead. And we don't need another empty chair in the Oval Office.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Just renewed my driver's license. It wasn't as big a hassle as I was expecting, but only because I knew about the Real ID crap, and so went to their web site to see what I needed. It turned out that a passport, social security card, and utility bill were the magic totems that unlocked the gates to continued driving. Well, that and being able to recognize 6 traffic signs with no words on them. Do Not Enter threw me for a second, but I came through in the clutch. Phew.

The clerk was impressed that I had all the right documentation my first time out, and I said, "It's an annoying law, but it's the law."

She had disagreed, citing "all the things people try to get through with", but not elaborating. I wanted to say that I didn't really mean "annoying" as much as I meant "misguided, xenophobic, reckless, and making us all less safe in the cause of winning cheap political points" but I just shrugged and kept my mouth shut, because I really, really wanted my drivers license.

Monday, October 27, 2008

How McCain Can Win

In two words: He can't.

McCain is losing because his campaign has been all over the damn place, which undercuts his core value proposition ("You'll always know where I stand, my friends.") and scares voters in a time of crisis. Even if he were to pick one of his many tracks and stick with it, 9 days is far too short a stretch of time to change the impression McCain has spent the last 6 months creating in the minds of voters.

He can play the woulda, coulda, shoulda game, but unless he's got a time machine, he's has no good options left.
More crazy talk from Get-Off-My-Lawn Man.

Friday, October 24, 2008

I'm wearing a dark shirt today, and I just caught my reflection in the bathroom mirror and noticed a splurp on my left shoulder that might be spit-up, might be formula, or maybe even infant tylenol (spud got her shots this week and is running a little hot). If it were from anything else, I might be embarrassed, but now I can't stop thinking about how she felt snuggled on my shoulder this morning, and I can't stop smiling.
Just before bed last night, I watched a clip on MSNBC.com of Palin parsing the definition of "terrorist", and it was pretty appalling. Steve Benen has a good summary, but I think I can break it down even more:

Blowing up a bathroom in the Pentagon: Terrorist.

Blowing up an abortion clinic
: "Unacceptable", but not necessarily terrorism.

I'm reminded of the Oklahoma City bombing. I was living in Kirksville, MO at the time, and didn't have a lot of news options, so I ended up flipping between CNN and the 700 Club. Initially, Pat Robertson was angry as hell, calling it an "unprovoked attack on the heart of America" and such, but when it was revealed that the perpetrator was a right-wing extremist, he went from calling it an "attack" to a "tragedy".

And, for the record, The Weathermen were terrorists, as are people who shoot at abortion doctors, as are people who blow up laboratories that experiment on animals, as is anyone who uses violence to advance a political agenda. Even when it's an agenda you agree with.

Cell Phone Only Households

I'm thinking about Pollster.com's analysis of polls that include cell phone only households (like ours) vs. ones with land lines and it's at least possible that the difference could be even greater because Obama's campaign has been so good about getting cell phone numbers, and people with cell phones will most likely be getting multiple GOTV text messages from the Obama camp on November 4th.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Sometimes the shallow stuff tells you a lot: Meet Rick Reilly's fantasy football partner - Barack Obama

Update: See this as well.

Palin Interview on NBC

All last week they were talking up their coming interview with Palin. Last night was the first installment, and suddenly, it's an interview with Palin and McCain.

The whole exercise had a certain "bringing your dad to a job interview" vibe.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

John Hodgman: "What I find interesting about this election, as a fake expert, is that it's a referendum on reality."

My thoughts exactly. The whole interview is worth watching, actually.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Another pesky fact

The Help America Vote Act requires that new voters show some form of federal ID, which means that none of the bogus registrations turned in by ACORN (as required by law, btw) can result in an actual vote unless the person voting has actually gone to the trouble of creating a fake ID in that name as well.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Sanity Check

I would imagine my relentless ranting has driven off most McCain fans by now, but I have to get this off my chest regarding the whole "Obama doesn't love America like you and I do" thing. Feel free to use it if somebody steps to you in the next couple of weeks spouting this bullshit.

Obama is a tenured professor of Constitutional Law at the University of Chicago. Not only has he made studying foundational document of our nation his life's work, but he's apparently quite good at it. It is completely insane to think anyone would do that who does not fiercely love this country.

McCain supporter thuggery at early voting sites

McCain supporters heckle early voters.

All white mobs screaming at mostly black voters? Wow, nothing untoward there, huh?
Sneaky.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Cory Doctorow's Little Brother

Great book, and one I'd recommend every American read before the election, just to remind themselves what's at stake. His vision of an American imprisoned by its own security apparatus is entirely too plausible, and keeping that from happening requires eternal vigilance, as the saying goes.

A poem found in a dream

Problem #1

My sister kisses
out of hope.



Thursday, October 16, 2008

The Most Alien-Looking Place on Earth
McCain's answer on abortion really pissed me off. First of all, there's the mendacity of saying "I'd never impose a litmus test on my nominees; I only care if they're qualified." and then following it up with "I don't think anyone who thinks Roe v. Wade was decided properly is qualified to be on the Supreme Court" is stunning.

But, really, is there any gesture more telling than McCain's snide air quotes around the phrase "health of the mother"?

That right there tells you everything you need to know about McCain and women's rights.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Our town doesn't have Air America, our NPR station does classical music over lunch, so my lunchtime radio news choices are conservative talk radio or Democracy Now. All due respect to Amy Goodman, but if Democracy Now was a cocktail party, I'd fake a headache, go home, and watch America's Funniest Home Videos. Sometimes it's informative, but it's generally boring as hell. Also, there's a pledge drive going on.

So I end up listening to talk radio, because at least then I have schadenfreude. This is what I have learned:

1. Rush Limbaugh is very afraid, and his listeners are positively paranoid.

2. O'Reilly is mad at McCain for not taking his advice, is proud of being simple, and thinks that the solution to all our economic woes is to "get the bad guys." That's a direct quote.

3. Based on their advertisers, conservative talk radio listeners are impotent, bald tax-dodgers with lousy credit. And they have allergies.
Last night I changed the baby's diaper and put her into her pajamas, all without waking her up. If life were MMORPG, that would be worth a serious XP bonus.
An important fact about ACORN:

If they receive a voter registration card that's been filled out, they are legally obligated to turn it in, even if it's obviously fake. This is to prevent, say, my friends and I from setting up a voter registration table outside our local right-wing mega-church, then throwing out all those registrations.

Another one:

In many of the states where they're being investigated, they actually put the forms they thought fraudulent into a separate batch and flagged them as such when they turned them in, but their flagging was ignored.

Here's the deal: If you think it's good to have as many people as possible registered to vote (and voting), then ACORN is good, and the fake registrations are just a pain in the ass for county clerks to deal with, since fake registrations virtually never lead to actual votes being cast. If you don't, then ACORN is bad.

And if your candidate is losing the race for President, and you're basically losing ground all over the place, then ACORN is a convenient scapegoat that will allow you to a) claim the Obama presidency is illegitimate and b) avoid examining the problems in your own party that led to your defeat.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Coffee Geekery

I'm a bit of a coffee nerd, but I'm an efficiency nerd as well, and the ROI for fancy coffee makers was just never there for me. I do have an espresso machine, and the big thing I learned from it is that it's worth it to pay someone else three bucks to make a complicated coffee drink, because it's a pain in the ass to do it yourself. I've done the french press thing, and it made good coffee, but was a hassle to clean. The vacuum coffee maker was even worse to clean, but the coffee was excellent, and, man, was it fun to watch. Too bad it didn't survive our last move. For a while I followed in Alton Brown's footsteps with a deconstructed drip device, but that didn't pass the Mary test, and Mary drinks more coffee in a one-week visit than I do for the rest of the year. She found my coffee setup more confounding than my entertainment center, and that's saying something. In fact, she actually went out and bought a Mr. Coffee.

That was a bridge too far for me. I can't stand the way coffee tastes when it's been sitting on the hot plate, so the Mr. Coffee had to, at least, be replaced by something with a thermal carafe. The coffee maker Christie got me that Christmas was a good compromise between efficiency and taste.

Somewhere in there, though, Christie finally admitted that she doesn't actually like coffee, and I was back to being the only coffee drinker in the house. I tried one of those pod thingies, but, to be honest, the coffee was both expensive and lousy. Not a good combination. So I was back to making at least half a pot each morning, which meant either drinking more coffee than was good for me, or letting a bunch of coffee go to waste. Neither was a good option.

Finally, two weeks ago, I did something I have done in years. I bought a new coffee gadget, the AeroPress. There are the four things you need to know about the Aeropress:

1. It's fast. I can make a cup of coffee in under a minute, once the kettle's hot.

2. Cleanup is fast and easy.

3. It makes a great cuppa from cheap, pre-ground coffee.

4. It cost under $30.

I still use the Braun when we have guests, but when it's just me drinking coffee, it's Aeropress all the way.
Like Ezra sez, small cheers to McCain for a token attempt to tamp down the flames of xenophobia and racism at his rallies, and major jeers for running a campaign that, on the macro level, continues to fan them.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Stock drops are the result of rational behavior

Let's assume that X% of stock buys before three weeks ago were margin buys. Now that credit is drying up, one would expect the number of people buying stocks to go down. Which means demand goes down, which means the price goes down.

Now, imagine you're a corporation used to borrowing money to cover spikes in your operating expenses. You do this not because you don't have the money, but because the interest you can earn on that money in the market is higher than the interest it costs you to borrow it. Now that credit is drying up and stock prices are going down, that is no longer the case. In fact, the liquidity crisis is so bad that, even with stocks going down as much as they are, it's still cheaper for you to sell stocks to cover your expenses than it is for you to borrow money, assuming you're able to borrow at all. And if you're not able to borrow at all, then you have no choice but to sell stocks to cover your operating expenses if they're your most liquid asset. More people selling means the price goes down even more.

And now you get into people that depend on their investments for retirement income. In good times, they can live off dividends and the occasional sell-off. Now the dividends are shrinking, and sell-offs net less profit, they have to sell more.

And the price goes down even further.

I'm hoping Paulson's recapitalization plan will help, but the simple fact is that we've all been dependent for too long on easy credit to help us ease the spikeyness of our incomes and outgoes, and no matter what happens in Washington, we're going to have to detox from credit, and that's going to kind of suck.

Gas on a fire

Ta-Nehisi raises what I consider to be a very reasonable point. Namely, that the man who shot MLK was egged on by public figures who demonized King as a communist, and that the McCain crowd is doing the same thing by calling Obama a terrorist-sympathizer.

In any group, there's an extreme minority that is prone to violence. Responsible leaders (MLK is a great example) do everything they can to rein these people in. Irresponsible leaders spout rhetoric that riles up their base, ignoring the fact that a few individuals will be inspired to actual violence. You want examples? Dave Neiwert's been talking about this stuff for years.

For the last 20 years, the right wing has been saying we're at war, that the enemy is less than human, and that the soul of our country is at stake. And those members of their flock that are already unhinged take them at their word and shoot up Unitarian churches, Democratic headquarters, synagogues, raves, gatherings of immigrants, and daycare centers that happen to be on the ground floor of a federal building in Oklahoma City.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Progress, without even realizing it

This morning on my way to drop off Sophie, some total fucking moron from Illinois got in the wrong turn lane, then proceeded to force his way into my lane, then go ten miles under the goddamn speed limit (okay, five, but everyone else goes five over, so five's as bad as ten, really) forcing me to get stuck at a light, but traffic was, as it always is at 10 to eight, too tight for me to pass him, and I was forced to endure his idiocy, while he dawdled in front of me all the way onto Stadium, where he managed to go 20 miles under the speed limit (okay, 15) and I said:

"Agh! This is really frustrating." and then looked up and saw a concerned baby in the back seat looking at me in the mirror, and I explained why I was frustrated and what sort of considerations I expected her to have for her fellow drivers once she was old enough to drive, and she seemed to decide it was okay for me to be a bit frustrated, considering that we were already running a bit late.

It was only later that I realized that I didn't use any bad words (even though that jerk from Illinois totally deserved them) and gave myself a gold star in parental driving.
The Financial Crisis, as Explained to My Fourteen-Year-Old Sister — The Bygone Bureau
Annika's new liver is in and seems to be working well.
Since McCain is beating the Ayers drum again, I think it's worth going into the details. Obama and Ayers met when they were serving on the board of the Chicago Annenberg Challenge, an educational foundation that was funded largely by the Annenberg Foundation (hence the name), whose chair is Leonore Annenberg, whose endorsement John McCain is bragging about.

If Ayers is a terrorist, then Annenberg (and her late husband) gave material support to a terrorist, and McCain should be attacking her for that, not praising her judgment. But Ayers isn't a terrorist, he's just another ego-ridden baby boomer looking back at his youth with rose-colored glasses. And I can understand that. I did some stupid shit when I was in my early twenties, and I've been known to play the "I learned a lot" card when I'm feeling nostalgic. Of course, I didn't blow anything up. At least, not that I can think of off the top of my head.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

An exchange you'll never hear on Antiques Roadshow

Guest: My mother bought this when she was a young woman, and when she passed a few years back, she left it to me.

Expert: And where did she buy it?

Guest: On a rural route outside of Tuscaloosa. She'd been drinking, and missed a tight curve. She'd always had a problem with liquor.
For your daily dose of awwwww: Yes We Can (hold babies).

Monday, October 06, 2008

Interesting take on gender-inequity in pay. Apparently women who become men typically experience a raise in pay, men who become women experience a loss.

McCain's health care plan

For me, the scariest thing about this plan is that it would allow you to buy health insurance from any state. That's one of those things that sounds like a wonderful new freedom, but insurance is regulated at the state level. Being able to buy from any state means that all the insurance companies could relocate to the state with the least regulation, and pull out of anywhere else.

Do you know why all the credit card companies are located in just a couple of places? Because those places have the least regulation. Within a few years, all the insurance companies would have moved to Idaho (or wherever), and we'd all be enjoying the improved customer service and coverage that would come about as the result of this race to the bottom.

Oh, and, as Krugman points out, individual coverage has three times the bureaucracy associated with it as employer-provided insurance. So look forward to more corporate bureaucrats standing between you and your doctor, making rules about what kind of care he's allowed to give you.

If you think I'm kidding, let's talk about how many times my insurance company, which is contractually obligated to provide me with prescription drug coverage, has argued with me about the drugs my doctor has prescribed. One of those was to prevent me from going into anaphylactic shock and dying while they tried to figure out what food I was allergic to. Good times.
I've got this line from The Untouchables running through my head:

"They pull a knife, you pull a gun. He sends one of yours to the hospital, you send one of his to the morgue. That's the Chicago way!"
Do the Republicans really want to push the story that Barack Obama once served on a committee with a guy who used to be a Weatherman, when McCain's father-in-law was mobbed up and Palin's got her own history of unsavory characters?

Or is this just another facet of the Right's fixation on the culture wars of the 60s?

Nah. Just another desperate attempt to change the subject.

Friday, October 03, 2008

FYI, Palin lied about the Sudan.
beautiful story

Conversation with a previously undecided voter

Her: I would love it if we had some transit options, gas is killing me having to drive my oldest down to Jeff City for his hockey practice.

Me: Oh, you're a hockey mom?

Her: Ooooh, I do not like her. She just ... bugs me. I'm scared that she really could end up in office. Seriously.

The Palin Debate Flow-Chart

Seems about right to me.
Palin didn't do or say anything incredibly stupid, so by the diminished expectations she created with her Katie Couric interview, she did well. But she only had a handful of canned answers that she used throughout the night, and she was, in general, remarkably content-free.

Now, I realize that I'm in the tank for Obama, but I found her delivery insulting, and her insistence on answering substantive questions with folksy bromides to be infuriating. This country is in real trouble, and talks about it like a sportscaster covering an FFA rodeo.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

The Dog That Didn't Bark

Interesting Biden story. Basically, the New York Times dug through 30 years of financial transactions and couldn't find a single example of him even bending the rules for his own financial gain.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Beyond Weird

An artist from New York with a fondness for projects involving SCA and LARPers is doing a play inspired by Neuromancer at an outdoor theater in Columbia where your's truly was once in a production of Much Ado About Nothing.

Really.

Well, I'll call it probably. There's no mention of it on the Maplewood Barn's schedule for next summer, and his proposal video gets some basic facts about the Barn wrong. But he seems to have gotten funding, and I can't imagine the folks at the Barn turning down his rent money.
One interpretation of this Palin interview excerpt might be that she objects to abortion, and would try to dissuade people from having them, but is opposed to legal penalties for it.

There's a name for that political position. It's called being pro-choice.

There's a more likely explanation, of course, which is that she wants to make abortion illegal by threatening legal action against doctors, but not patients. All the same nasty consequences, but she still gets to claim she doesn't want to throw those poor women in jail. But she can't actually answer Couric's question ("But ideally, you think it should be illegal for a girl who was raped or the victim of incest to get an abortion?") honestly without sounding like a monster, so she dodges it.
I was just looking through my stats and noticed a visitor from Shanghai back in September. Michelle, if that was you (and you come back in time to see this), drop me a line, I'd love to catch up!