Friday, September 26, 2008

Once again a knife-wielding maniac has shown us the way

Good editorial here about all the posturing that is going on in Washington about the current financial problems. Here's my favorite sentence.

You can try to prevent a financial meltdown or you can teach Wall Street a lesson, but you can't do both at the same time.

I agree, and I also think that you can't prevent a financial meltdown if your first priority is, say, getting elected. John McCain said he was suspending his campaign to go to Washington and get this fixed, and I hope I see that happen. But I haven't yet.

It's not that I know what to do about this. I don't. But nobody in Congress has shown me that they know what to do about it, either. I just see a bunch of goons trying to score points by talking about what a crisis this is. Well, if it's a crisis, stop talking to the cameras and go get this fixed. Start taking things a little more seriously.

And in the meanwhile, watch this video.


Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Do I owe Ron Paul money?
Chapter 1: The Gathering Storm

So, this summer, I had a guy subletting in my apartment who is a Ron Paul fan. He spent a lot of time trying to proselytize me, in the fashion of Ron Paul fans everywhere.

This effort was somewhat handicapped because he also believes that the Federal Reserve is a satanic conspiracy engineered by a mysterious group of international financiers, and that the US government was behind the September 11th attacks. This lowered his credibility somewhat.

I should have simply avoided conversation with him. He wouldn't stop preaching, and I couldn't keep myself from arguing with him. But no matter how often (or how strongly) I disagreed with hi, he never got upset or angry. And whenever I thought I had him cornered, he cheerfully switched topics and began anew his attempts to persuade me.

After weeks of attempting to nail him down, I finally got a specific prediction out of him. He believed that the world was on the brink of another great depression, and that we would see this in two ways. First, stock prices would fall. Second, the price of gold would rise. In a year or two, he expected that the price of gold in dollars would converge with the Dow Jones Industrial Average and meet somewhere around three or four thousand.

So, we made a wager. The Dow was then at about 11,000 and the price of gold was almost $1000 per ounce. This left a gap of about 10,000. I said that if this gap closed to 5,000 or less before September 1, 2009, that I would make a sizable contribution to Ron Paul's congressional reelection campaign. (For his part, Bob pledged that if he lost the bet he would refrain from contributing to Ron Paul.)

For the last two months, I have been watching both the price of gold and the Dow Jones. Here are the results so far.

July 21, 2008 - initial measurements
* Dow Jones = 11,467.34 points
* Price of Gold = $960.50
* Difference = 10,506.84

August 21, 2008
* Dow Jones = 11,430.21 points
* Price of Gold = $833.50
* Difference = 10,596.71

September 22, 2008 (no data for 9/21)
* Dow Jones = 11,015.69 points
* Price of Gold = $889.00
* Difference = 10,126.69

So far, it looks like there is no appreciable convergence in these two numbers. The distance between them is about what it was on the day we made the wager.

Of course, the gap could close suddenly. Lots of morons on TV with great hair and undergraduate degrees in communications are talking in grave tones about a terrible lurking danger that will shortly ruin the US economy. But these people have also told me to watch out for Monkey Pox and shark attacks. So I'm watching and waiting, but I'm not buying guns and hoarding gold yet.

Sorry, Bob.


Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Hue and cry

I scored 8/100 on this test, and I feel pretty good about that.


Monday, September 15, 2008

The last word on Palin

I think I need to lay off the politics for a while. But before I do, here's one last bit about the campaign. If you haven't seen Tina Fey as Sarah Palin, you haven't lived. (Thanks, Dean's World.)


Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The Deliberator

My sister and I have been talking about the presidential campaign, and she had an interesting critique of McCain and Palin. It's something that I think I have not heard anyone else say. Here it is:

And here's the real thing for me -- she and McCain are both "gut" players. They govern with their guts and their instincts, and everything is right and wrong and there is no grey. And they're not afraid to tick people off to do what they think is right. And I'm tired of that technique. I think we need a more deliberative style in the presidency as well as a more bridge building, working together style. When I hear McCain say "vote for the team that's not afraid to break some china!" I think, the china is already broken. We've already had a china breaker, and that has been a real mess, IMHO.

And this was my reply:

I think you're right about [the personal style of] McCain and Palin, and Obama certainly seems more deliberative. And I'll admit, a little more thinking before acting would be a welcome change. But there are two ways to look at it. One is to say that he is more deliberative. The other is to say that he never does anything.

From what I can see, Obama has virtually no record. And I don't mean that he hasn't been in Washington for very long. I mean that there's very little that we can point out that he has accomplished. Look at this list of all the legislature he ever introduced in the Senate:

In four years in the Senate, he has managed to get five pieces of legislation passed-- all of which passed by unanimous consent, without the need for individual Senators to vote yea or nay. Two of these designate a particular day as National Summer Learning Day. One congratulates the White Sox on winning the World Series. One is an obituary for a minister from Memphis. And one recognizes "the historical significance of Juneteenth Independence Day and express[es] the sense of the Senate that history should be regarded as a means for understanding the past."

That's the entirety of what this man has accomplished in the Senate. In this he is like John Kerry, and a lot of other worthless politicians who sit around and enjoy the collegiality of the Senate club without doing much. John McCain gets things done. Even Joe Biden has done some important work in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. But Obama hasn't done anything, despite thinking a lot and talking a lot about how he's going to change the country, and the world.

It's the same if you look at his time in Illinois. What did he accomplish as a community organizer? Here's a pretty critical look at his years there:

But even if you read the most enthusiastic and supportive accounts of his years as a community organizer, you can't find much evidence of him having done anything. There's lots of talk about how it helped him to understand the plight of the urban poor, and understand himself better as well. But I can't find any evidence that these people were better off for his help.

Similarly, as a state legislator, he is most notable for the (surprisingly great) number of times he voted "present."

Deliberation can be good, but the point of it is to make a good decision and then act. I have heard it said of George Washington that he was not a quick thinker but that he always reached the correct conclusion in the end. Obama strikes me as a person who does plenty of thinking and plenty of talking, but just doesn't get much accomplished.

Consider the issue of government waste and corruption. I'm sure Obama is against it, but his record leads me to believe he will get outmaneuvered and steamrolled by Congress. On the other hand, I think McCain will spend days and nights poring over bills to find that pork. Then he'll expose the crooks, and try to kill the bills. Why do I think this? Because that's what he has done for decades in the Senate-- and as president, he will have a much larger audience when he exposes waste, and his veto will count for more than his single Senatorial vote did.

Or consider global warming. Barack Obama introduced the Climate Change Education Act, which never got a vote, even in committee. John McCain-- even if we only look at the time since 2004 when Obama was elected-- has introduced two substantive pieces of legislation, with Democratic co-sponsors, that were extensively debated before being defeated.

It's the same for social security, or illegal immigration, or any other important issue. McCain has written detailed and important legislation, pushed for it, and often got it passed into law. For his part, Obama has given widely-acclaimed speeches, and occasionally introduced a bill that usually doesn't make it out of committee.

Frankly, I'm not too worried about an Obama presidency, even though I disagree with him on policy quite a lot. I'm not worried because I don't think he'll get much done. And maybe that would be a nice change. You might want a quieter time, with a president who serves more as a figure for inspiration, one who uses the bully pulpit more and lets Congress do their work without much executive interference. I'm not sure that's the way it would really work out, but I can see the appeal.

This is not so original, though. I have noticed a lot of people making this critique of Obama, but it's still very convincing-- to me, anyway. And that's what matters in the end. Because my word is LAW.

A word of advice

An old friend invited me to join a group on Facebook. The group is called "Sarah Palin, hold a press conference." I ignored it for a few days, but this morning I joined it, just so I could put up a post on their wall.

Here's the post...

Kids, you're setting yourselves up. After Palin got nominated, there were those who painted her as an illiterate neanderthal, so when she gave a good speech, it exceeded expectations and made her very popular.

You're doing the same thing again. She is, of course, going to do a press conference at some point. And the bigger the stink you make about it before it happens, the lower the expectations will be, and the better she will look.

As a your friendly neighborhood Republican, I'm telling you, you're walking into a trap here. She wants you to misunderestimate her. It's strategery.

Watch the videos of her gubernatorial debates and you will see that Sarah Palin is not a pushover who the American people will reject en masse as soon as she gets some tough questions. She's savvy enough to handle herself in an interview and lots of Americans agree with her views.

So, sit back and relax. You'll get your press conference soon enough.

Personally, I can't wait for the first Sarah Palin press conference. I think it's going to be a lot of fun to see her add another trophy to her wall.