31 August 2008

The more chairs, the more people who can play

One of the better commentors over at Just One Minute made the suggestion that Senator McCain announce some of his cabinet picks in advance in the context of speculation on the VP selection. I can see the attraction of it, but I suspect that the practicalities of modern politics prevents it, in that McCain would no longer be able to dangle such positions in front of people as a motivation, either for themselves or (more likely) for their favored guru. Not only is the announced position out, but the fewer that are left the less plausible getting one becomes.

Sins of omission

Via Brothers Judd

At an economy town hall here Sunday afternoon, Obama said his rival’s pick for vice president was against equal pay for equal work.

“We’re gonna make sure that equal pay for equal work is a reality in this country,” he said. “You know, John McCain’s new VP nominee seems like a very engaging person, a nice person, but I’ve got to say, she’s opposed like John McCain is to equal pay for equal work. That doesn’t make much sense to me.”

So many times, as in this case, the speaker elides something that makes the statement far more accurate. The magic phrase “the government deciding”. Using the original quote as an example, here is the corrected statement

she’s opposed like John McCain is to the government deciding on equal pay for equal work

Ah, much clearer. It is telling that socialists like Obama are generally unwilling to speak those words out loud.

29 August 2008

Sometimes the choir is who you need

Hot Air comments

I’m reading one comment over and over again in response to criticism here and elsewhere about Barack Obama’s speech — that those who criticize it weren’t the audience for it anyway. I admit that I’m a Republican who has no intention of voting for Barack Obama. However, shouldn’t that have been the audience for this speech?

I can see that, but in this election I am leaning more toward those who think that turn out is what is going to determine the winner, and in that case playing to the base is the right choice. And one may ask whether Senator Obama has any real chance of improving his standing among Republicans or even most moderates. Like dumping his campaiging in all fifty states, why throw good money after bad?

Game over

Neither Palin nor McCain are lawyers.


Seriously, what more would you need to know?

Geek politics

When I heard that Senator McCain had picked Governor Palin for Vice President, the first thing I did was check to see if “palin2012.com” was registered. Yes indeed it is. Interestingly, it was registered back in August of 2007.

My second impulse, based on this post by Ann Althouse was that all of the inappropriate comments about Bush’s daughters over the years will be small change compared to what’s going to go around about Palin’s.

24 August 2008

If you need to move the goalposts, shouldn't you reconsider why you are on the field?

A couple of long time friends dropped by this weekend. They live in California but he was originally from around here and they were visiting family. At one point she asked us who were were going to vote for and I said “McCain” and SWIPIAW agreed that she’d probably end up doing that as well. I noted that I didn’t think much of McCain, but I wasn’t going to be voting for an empty suit with a collection of Socialist, Marxist, and unrepetentant terrorist friends who in the end, was just another political hack from the Chicago Machine. She countered with “look at how much damage Bush has done to this country!”. I disputed that and asked for examples. “Well, the economy — we’re in a recession …” — I called a halt and pointed that no, we’re not, a recession being two quarters of negative growth and it’s been a long time since we had even one negative quarter. She came back with how a “recession” was defined a bit differently now. In the standard morning after realization, I realized I should have pursued that and pointed out something that is a major peeve of mine, which is that if you have to make up stuff, or invent new definitions for standard terms, in order to point out the dismal record of someone, shouldn’t you first wonder why that’s necessary? If the person is so bad, why would you need to make up anything? I don’t have to make up anything to slam Bush, or McCain, for that matter.

Maybe that should be the diagnostic for Bush Derangement Syndrome. If your dislike for Bush is based on actual facts, OK. If it doesn’t even occur to you that making stuff up about Bush in order to slam him might be dubious, then you’re a victim.

Biden his time

I need to get this out before the Democratic National Convention, and I was inspired by this comment by M. Simon, who quotes Larry Johnson

But there is a very strange air about Republican operatives. In the last three weeks, I’ve talked to real insiders in VA, GA, AL and here. They all remind me of a unit waiting to cross the line of departure on an attack. Quiet, determined, last cigarette, last “can of peaches out of the ration,” radio checks, confident. They all use the term “safely nominated” when referring to Obama. That is weird.

Now, Johnson is a rabidly partisan border line nutcase with a long history of hysterical exaggeration, but I had been thinking along those lines myself, wondering about the McCain campaign. There have been complaints that the campaign hasn’t, until very recently, really hit at Senator Obama, especially a few months ago right after Obama became the presumptive nominee. I leaned in that direction myself. But now I wonder if it’s not working out better for Senator McCain to have held his fire. The team might well have thought Obama was a weaker candidate than Senator Clinton and held off because they didn’t want to break him before he was “safely nominated”. Yes, he could (in theory) get dumped after nomination, but that would be such a disaster that McCain would cruise to victory regardless of who was picked as a replacement.

Holding back also means that good lines of attack weren’t burnt out as “old news”, a factor that anyone who’s gone up against the Clinton Machine would take seriously. And, of course, politicallly advertising that goes on before the conventions is not trivial, but it’s not of much significance either so foregoing it is a minor loss that (in the opinion of the McCain leadership cadre) wasn’t worth the risk of not having Obama as the nominee.

It could be that McCain just got lucky, and made a virtue of necessity, but if he didn’t, then credit where credit is due. I think that should he win, the post facto commentators will laud this event sequence as brilliant strategy.

Seeing is believing

Brothers Judds has a post about MSNBC “turning left” to get more viewers. I have been meaning to comment on that itself. My family went to the big city last weekend for a mini-vacation and one of the restaurants we went to had a TV on with MSNBC playing. It’s been too long since I’ve seen Old Media in action and I was stunned at how obviously biased it was. I suppose I shouldn’t have been, but it’s one thing to be intellectually aware of it and another to see it in action. Normally I would have been surprised that a major television network would stoop to hiring someone from Air America, but not now.

13 August 2008

Moving on

I ran in to this thorough litany of problems in the ‘hockey stick’ climate data and I originally thought “what a powerful bit of writing on the subject”. But, then reality set it. The ‘hockey stick’ has been generally discredited for a while, and it’s either used without regard to its provenance, or redacted out of talking points as if it never existed so as to also erase the sordid history behind it. They’ve moved on to some other foundation, which will also be abandoned once it cracks. At what point in that sequence can one just declare that the argument is purely belief driven and discredit the entire thing on that basis?

Pesky little details

The deep knowledge that powers the Washington Post’s political commentary —

Bill Clinton and Al Gore both relied on it in winning the Democrats’ only popular-vote majorities of the past two decades.

Of course, Bill Clinton did not get a majority popular vote in either of his Presidential election. If journalists don’t read about their supposed area of expertise carefully, and bring their own prejudices to it, why shouldn’t the readers?

— Via Brothers Judd

10 August 2008

Guest post by cjm: What about a Demarchy?

cjm wrote a comment on another thread. I deleted it and moved it here.

i have been kicking around this idea for awhile now, and this is as good a place as any to talk about it.

building on existing social networking platforms, provide a tool that allows people in each congressional district to debate and decide on each piece of legislation — amongst themselves. once a majority position has been reached, the nominal representative votes accordingly. if he votes counter to his constituents’ wishes, then the auto-recall mechanism kicks in and he is out within a week. this would eliminate parties, lobbyists, etc. note that this tool is not electronic voting ala diebold, so security and identity issues aren’t a problem.

Certainly the concept has come up in various science fiction stories. One might look at The Outcasts of Heaven Belt which has an extreme citizen directed democracy of that sort. I think there was at least one other short story in that ficton but I can’t bring the title to mind. The “Demarchy” in Revelation Space is an homage to this.

Ender’s Game has a set up more similar to yours, with on line debates in effect directing government action. The Dosadi Experiment with its Bureau of Sabotage touches on some of the potential downside.

My own concerns would be how much conformity was created. After all, the debates are public? Which means that voting is de facto public as well, or you couldn’t know that a majority concensus had been achieved. I suspect such a system would require even more civic virtue than our current one (which, alas, I also suspect about a true minarchy). Just look at any website with a lot of commentors — how do you keep the flamers, ramblers, and utterly incoherent from derailing the conversation? On the websites where that (mostly) doesn’t happen (such as LGF) it’s because of a benevolent dictatorship. Who would serve that role in debates about government?

08 August 2008

It's my experience, I'll have it the way I want

Instapundit asks

A VIDEOGAME VIOLENCE FILTER for Gears of War 2. So is this customization, or Bowdlerization?

Depends on who makes the choice, the consumer or some one else. I simply don’t see anything wrong or even suspect about a consumer deciding he’d rather have things toned down. To me it’d be like arguing the I shouldn’t have a volume knob on my sound system.

That's a lot of chickens

Speaking of demonstrating a thesis, we’ve touched on the plight of Old Media and its hostility to GOP candidates recently and the last day or so has been quite the storm of anecdotal data. Let’s see —

One is left wondering if the leaders of the industry have any concept of public relations, or value supporting their ideology above that, or just don’t care because they’ve never had to in the past. There’s also the aspect that Old Media constantly calls out the failings of other industries and their leaders, but don’t seem to be able to grasp the concept that such standards should be applied to them as well.

Winds of Change has some further thoughts.

We're lucky they're such wimps underneath

Is there any better demonstration of the thesis of Liberal Fascism than the current Obama campaign, complete with salutes and intimidation of political opponents? As someone else noted1, it’s the BDSM style of MAL politics, all the appearance and accoutrements of the real thing without the actual reality.

P.S. Let’s not over look the upcoming Nuremberg trials for Bush administration officials.

1 I think it was Mark Steyn, but netsearching for that rapidly turned in to an exercise at which I was not willing to perservere.

06 August 2008

Not quite horrible enough

So there’s yet another commercial flying is horrible article getting cited on the Inter-Tubes. It makes me think of the famous quote, “Nobody goes there anymore, it’s too crowded”. After all, if the flights are packed, how intolerable can it be? The best comment I saw on the matter was the claim that flying is heavily dominated by the “once a year” crew and the complaints by the business traveler. The former will have a far higher tolerance for abuse in exchange for cheap which spills over on the latter.

Personally, we now avoid commercial airlines whenever possible, by not traveling or only going places with in reach of car travel. But we seem to be in the minority on that.

05 August 2008

Who can tell if mud sticks to a pig?

What’s interesting to me is how it is presumed by observers across the spectrum that political corruption such as that of Senator Ted Stevens will be damaging to the GOP, yet scandals such as Representative William “Freezer Cash” Jefferson won’t damage the Democratic Party. Similarly, President Bush’s political failures are a liability for the GOP, but the laughably pathetic tenures of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi are not a serious political issue for the Democratic Party. The scandals of Larry Craig vs. John Edwards. One could add how the plight of large cities and their educational systems rarely gets pinned on the party that governs almost all of those cities, or when pinned on a party it’s the GOP (e.g., “Reagan hollowed out the inner city jobs markets”, not “Democratic Party machines sold out their constituents”).

What I think is that all of this shows what people across the spectrum really expect out of the main political parties, in how surprising (or not) they find such events.

Monoculture finance

In the midsts of his panic mongering, Harry Eagar did bring up one salient point — does the widespread existence of mortgage securities increase systemic risk?

It clearly doesn’t if one considers a single bank. It doesn’t matter whether the bank has $1B of debt in the form of individual mortages, or $1B in mortgage backed securities. The overall worth of the debt is the same in both cases, dependent on the aggregate worth of the mortgages. That was my original thought, but it occurred to me that it might be different if one considers the overall banking system. At the extreme, if there was a single tranche of mortgage backed securities that included every mortgage that was owned by most banks, then a downturn in the housing market would affect all banks simultaneously, which is the root of a bank panic. It’s the vulnerability of all monocultures.

Obviously, it’s not the case that there is only one tranche of mortgage securities, but it does seem a valid question to wonder how much diversity is present (direct mortgages only being the other extreme on the diversity scale). While there are multitudes of financial organizations offering putatively different mortgage securities, my impression is that the financial world suffers from the same inbred copy-cat faddishness that Hollywood does, so that many of these are really the same securities under different labels. However, even if the structuring is identical, if the securities are backed by disjoint sets of actual mortgages, then they are diverse in the sense that is under discussion, i.e. the risk is not signficantly larger than for a fully diverse system.

This is a nexus in which it’s not so clear that government regulation improves the situation. One of the primary effects of regulation is uniformity, which we can see is the root of the problem. The particularly type of uniformity matters and so it is, in my view, bogus to claim that “regulation” would be an improvement without specifying the particulars of that regulation.

04 August 2008

Viewer only context

Hot Air wonders just how deep in to their own psychoses the Obamaniacs will go in order to counter attack any anti-Obama advertisements. I have to say, my long experience at BagNewsNotes indicates that there is no limit, that any image is pure Rorschach, where the interpretation comes first and the image second. The only context that counts is the one the viewer brings to the image. It’s hard to believe until you see it in action, I know, but it is interesting that something that fringe is now oozing in to national media.

02 August 2008

Pot & Kettle Watch

You can almost feel sorry for his [Senator Obama’s] true believers, because by the end of the campaign he’ll have tossed every issue they care about overboard and he’ll still lose. Sad that he resorted to racist terminology to defend himself.

Orrin Judd

I wonder if OJ would apply the same logic to his defense of the recent comprehensive immigration “reform”.

Corporate patronage

It is generally presumed that a government chief executive officer (President, governor, etc.) needs to have a certain amount of “patronage” positions for which people can be hired and fired at will without any legal consequence. These are generally high ranking positions, on the theory that the GCEO needs to be able to put “his people” in place to implement his policies. If it works for government, why not for private corporations? Let a corporation designate some set of jobs as “patronage” and automatically invalidate any lawsuit over hiring and firing for those positions.

Maybe not a good policy, but if it makes even one MALnar’s head explode, wouldn’t it be worth it?