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My top three:
  1. Obama explains that he supports a ban on late-term abortions, "as long as there's an exception for the mother's health and life".  McCain responds with an incoherent jumble of sentence fragments, highlighted by repetition of the word "health" with air quotes, because, you know, health is a made-up concept that only new-age tree-huggers believe in.
  2. Obama describes at length how his health insurance plan works for small businesses, and what's wrong with McCain's alternative.  The moderator turns to McCain for a response, which is:  "Joe.  You're rich.  Congratulations."  McCain was speaking into the camera, and in a close-up, it probably made sense, but on ABC (part 6), which had it in a wide shot, it's hilarious:  Instead of responding to Obama's points, McCain is suddenly talking to an invisible guy across the table from him.
  3. Speaking of health care... referring back to Obama's analogy that a spending freeze is "using a hatchet where you need a scalpel," McCain explains: "That's a hatchet... and then I would get out a scalpel."  The patient appreciates your consideration.
Overall, I thought it was a good debate, both in general and for my candidate.  Schieffer mostly didn't let people run on at length, and except for the tiresome Ayers/ACORN hash, kept them talking about matters of substance.  Obama, I thought, talked directly to voters about things that affect their lives.  McCain seemed lost in the weeds, speaking in inside-the-beltway code words, earmarks and litmus tests and pork barrels and "elections have consequences" and "health."  He did make an effort to connect with "Joe the Plumber" but of course that turned out to be mostly nonsense.

What'd I miss?
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Someone on Forum said (I'm paraphrasing from memory), "You and your guests all advise remaining calm. My financial advisor says the same thing. So who are the people who are panicking?" They cited last week's Wall Street drop as an example. These are supposed to be financial professionals, and smarter than the rest of us. Why are they the ones flopping around like a fish on the dock?

As time goes by and I read more insider accounts, I increasingly believe that people in the financial industry are not any smarter or better with money than the rest of us. They are only more macho.

According to this theory, Wall Street pros act more aggressively than any sensible person would. When the economy is doing well - or seems to do well, all the while floating on an ever-growing ocean of debt - this aggression pays off at a higher ROI than sanity, and they look smart. It's just when reality rears its head that they freak out and demand thousands of dollars from everyone in America to support their testosterone habit.

I'm no expert. Prove me wrong.


Sep. 17th, 2008 07:59 am
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I listened yesterday to Mitt Romney's address to the RNC, courtesy of C-SPAN's Podcast of the Week. The whole thing's sort of a spectacular mishmash of liberals-bad-conservatives-good cliches, brazen claims, and outright lies, but I especially liked this awkward metaphor in the context of the GOP's ongoing War on Science:
You know, for decades now, the Washington sun has been rising in the east - you see, Washington has been looking to the eastern elites, to the editorial pages of the Times and the Post, and to the broadcasters from the p - from the coast! (Boos.) Yeah.

If America really wants to change, it's time to look for the sun in the west, cause it's about to rise and shine from Arizona and Alaska!
Okay, well... if you guys want to look for a sunrise in the west, you keep on looking. I'll be over here.
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About a week ago I did some volunteer work. I signed up through Democrats Work, an organization that aims to get people out doing good work for their communities, and doing it as Democrats, to show how Democrats are good hard-working members of the community. Mostly what I think we showed is that the Democrats aren't very good at getting organized - I think there were three of us.

But we had fun! And we did some useful stuff for RAFT, which is awesome. Basically they take stuff that people were going to throw away, and turn it into low-cost resources for teachers. Some of it's obvious stuff - I spent most of my time sorting hundreds of looseleaf binders by size and color so they can sell them in fairly uniform boxes. But I also disassembled 30-odd CD cases and put the CDs in a pile so another group could package them with balloons and instructions to make a hovercraft. You know, for hands-on scientific understanding. That kind of creative reuse is their forte. I hope to go back and help them out again.
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1. I really like biking, and in theory I like public transit, but I didn't like the bus driver being grumpy at me when I wanted to bring my bike on the bus. But I did like being able to anyway.

2. Saw Stealing America: Vote by Vote, a documentary about, you know. Election irregularities. I'm glad they made it, but it made me feel kind of sick. Mostly the sequences about the 2004 election - I remember what it was like, watching all those swing states with pro-Kerry exit polls fall to Bush as the night went on. And then watching the stories come out over the next few days about voters that weren't allowed to vote, machines that registered Kerry votes as Bush votes right on the screen, mysteriously missing and just uncounted votes... and watching as Kerry, Congress, and the media just did nothing. Reliving that wasn't so great.

Read more... )


Aug. 30th, 2008 11:16 am
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Worried about putting a small-town mayor in the White House? Not to worry - she'll learn on the job!
“She’s going to learn national security at the foot of the master for the next four years, and most doctors think that he’ll be around at least that long,” said Charlie Black, one of Mr. McCain’s top advisers, making light of concerns about Mr. McCain’s health, which Mr. McCain’s doctors reported as excellent in May.
Probably for a full four years!
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Working from Bilmes and Stiglitz's estimate of the Iraq war's total cost to the U.S., Neil Sinhababu is figuring out what else we could have done with three trillion dollars. Some ideas are frivolous (Lift all humans, pigs, and sheep into the air with helium), others tragic (Desalinize enough seawater so all Africans could drink safely until 10,000 AD). All are backed up with facts and figures. War? Or Car?
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No one likes us; I don't know why
We may not be perfect, but heaven knows we try
But all around, even our old friends put us down
Let's drop the big one and see what happens

I first encountered Randy Newman's satirical song "Political Science" in 2003, through a great blog called Body and Soul. Jeanne quoted an LA Times article:

The years passed, foreign policy ebbed and flowed, spats with allies came and went, but the wonderful thing about "Political Science," Newman realized, was that no matter how absurd America's behavior toward the rest of the world seemed to people like him, it could never approximate his song's hyperbolic jingoism. "Nobody talked like that, not even [ultra-hawkish Vietnam-era general] Curtis LeMay."
But in 2003, after September 11, Freedom Fries, and the invasion of Iraq, well, suddenly the satire didn't seem so broad.

I thought about all that when I found this video, whose creator seems to have taken Newman's narrator at face value.

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Minneapolis mayor R. T. Rybak, RNC cohost, on Unconventionally Yours:
When the Republicans awarded this, they did give me a call and say, "Gee, we wanna make sure you work as hard for the Republican convention as you're gonna work for the Democratic convention," and I said, "Well, to be honest, I'll probably work a little harder for the Republican convention," and they said, "Well, why?" and I said, "Well, to make sure the protest areas are comfortable for my wife and kids."
(Quote around 10:30, but first scroll down and stop the video somebody else posted in the comments.)

John Lewis

Aug. 20th, 2008 01:39 am
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I listened to most of the Saddleback Forum, McCain and Obama's non-debate debate in the form of separate conversations with megapastor Rick Warren. I remember being vaguely impressed halfway through McCain's answer to this question:
Who are the three wisest people that you know that you would rely on heavily in an administration?
Read more... )
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Timothy Egan has an op-ed in today's Times about Montana, Sportsmen for Obama, race relations, and the 50 state strategy. And it's short! I think his take on the New Yorker cover is a bit off - the problem with it isn't that "those folks in fly-over country" - but the rest of it is pretty good. And it's short!
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I was looking at some photographs of the recent flooding in Iowa and being struck by the awfulness of all those buildings underwater, not to mention people's lives, when I realized, hey, I photographed some of those buildings when they were dry. So I've posted a few of those.

I figured out what a lot of the buildings were by looking at recent photographs that identified them, and I was initially collecting links for a sort of before-and-after contrast, but it felt morbid. That's not why I took these pictures, and it's not why I'm sharing them. I just like Cedar Rapids.
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According to a new poll (but only one, at this point), Obama leads McCain in Montana by five percentage points (up ten from a previous poll in April). Atrios says, "On the other hand, while no one was paying attention, Montana got themselves a Democratic governor and two Democratic senators."

Well, I was paying attention. )
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I started posting photos to Flickr again. Y'all can stop holding your breath now. They're all old photos, but I still like them.

Also, I'm headed northwest again, this time with my power folk trio, Tin Cat. We're playing at SoulFood Books in Redmond next Friday, and at a house party in Portland the next night. (Email me for details.) And other places.
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Welp. Thanks solely (as far as I know) to my 6-second phone call, my representative voted against retroactive immunity for the phone companies. Too bad about the 293 yeas.
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Over the last few years, I've written a bunch of email to Mike Honda, Dianne Feinstein, and Barbara Boxer, my elected representatives in Congress, asking them to vote one way or another on some bill - you know, stop torture, avoid war, preserve basic human rights. It's okay. I write a paragraph or three, as eloquently as I can; it makes me feel like I've spoken my mind, and in time, someone on the elected official's staff scans it for keywords, possibly marks a tally somewhere, and sends me a form letter in his or her name, vaguely related to the topic I so carefully addressed.

(One exception: the time when Feinstein's office responded to a call for impeachment, verbosely founded on the administration's disregard for both statute and the Constitution, by arguing that the 9/11 Commission had no evidence that Bush was behind the attack on the World Trade Center. Which, of course, had nothing to do with my letter.)

Then one day, everything changed. )
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Hey, guys, I was just looking at the GOP's web site, and I was wondering:

They don't seem to like this Obama fellow much, but does anybody know, do the Republicans have a candidate in the race this year?
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Sometimes my reading settles on a theme without my noticing. Here are some things I've read lately: Politics! )

I'm looking forward to some light fiction. Any suggestions?


Apr. 9th, 2008 06:45 pm
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Huh. California will have a ballot initiative this fall to guarantee farm animals the right to turn around and stretch their limbs.
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