Monday, October 27, 2008

Latest outrage

The Economist has set up a mock electoral college where people from around the world can 'vote' to determine who America's next president should be. Of course, Barack Obama is winning. It's practically an indictment of him! After all, what kind of elitist Francophile, wine snob, Democrat would think we should show, "a decent Respect to the Opinions of Mankind?"

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Meta voting for the nigger

From 538:
Last week, Julie Hensley made one of her thousands of phone calls on behalf of Barack Obama. A woman answered. As Hensley ran through her short script, the husband impatiently broke in.

"Ma'am, we're voting for the n***er." And hung up.

Hensley wasn't having it. "I went and made a couple other calls but chafed over this absurdity," she told us, "so I called them back, as I still had a couple questions for the wife." This time the man answered, asked pointedly who she was, and when she replied he hung up again.

If I were a journalist, I would put this in the 'too good to check' category. I'm not, so I went looking for evidence. Surely in 2008, some Western PA canvasser with a cell phone camera caught the evidence and posted it... right? So, I check on the YouTube and got the image above. I guess YouTube is worried about the racism, but should I be forced to guess which letters of nigger to star out? Also, what does it say about latent racism in the U.S. that YouTube seems to have replaced "nigger" with "devil?"

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Fruitfly v. Palin

D.M. and Olbermann both reference Sarah Palin's attack on frivolous fruit fly research.

There's been a major pushback. I note this is the third time biology research grants have come up in the campaign. First McCain attacked earmarks for studying those undeserving grizzly bears. Then, Democrats shot back with Palin's earmarks to study harbor seals.

One of the many P.R. problems of science is that virtually all research topics can be made to sound silly - who cares about glowing jellyfish, and who wrote that grant for counting the number of cells in a worm, anyway?

Perhaps the real reason Palin hates the fruit fly isn't about wasting money, it's about the culture wars. The fruit fly looms in this arena, even to a greater extent than it is loomed over in everyday life. Think you can pray away the gay? Meet fruitless. Some mutations make male flies try to mate with other males, others remove gender preference, or create flies with no interest in mating.

There isn't a gene in mammals that seems directly related to fruitless (a homolog, in the parlance). However, such genes do exist for other diseases, for instance myc, a determinant of cell growth, and thus cancer. Our ability to productively apply research from Drosophila myc to our understanding of human cancer blows a huge practical hole in Genesis Creationism, or the 'Orchard Model' of several special creations. If everything was created separately, why are they so similar? And if they were intelligently made similar enough to be studied, why not make them identical?

If you just want to ignite the culture wars, any attack on science will do, but an attack on the fruit fly covers so many more bases.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Why I don't care about Sarah Palin's clothes

A few months ago, I was trying to mock John McCain's $520 loafers, and a friend pointed out that as a politician, he can probably write off his suits as a business expense, which means we get to pay for them (sort of).

If the RNC wants to spend that money on Sarah Palin, more power to them, it's money they can't spend on ads or turnout. As a non-RNC donor, I don't care. If I were an RNC donor, I would think I got my money's worth. Other than isolated comments about one Tarkin-esque outfit, Palin's atire has never been a source of embarrasment, which compares quite favorably to Hillary Clinton's Sisterhood of the Travelling Pantsuits.

Ballot folding: Official reply

Dear p.e.
Thank you for your questions...and no these are not dumb questions although my answer may seem a bit...never mind. We prefer as you stated that the ballot be folded as received. We would like them in the order received, i.e.., page with President first but any order you send (folded any way that allows you to put them back in the envelope) will suffice. We request they are in order to make our lives easier at tabulation where they must be in the correct order and sequence to tabulate properly. We have a team of assistant that will review all ballots prior to scanning to insure proper order and tabulation with minimal interruptions and thereby deflect any problems to sort. We are pleased at the interest in this year's election and I am grateful for your query. If you have other questions, please contact me personally. Thanks again for your questions.

Small Town Values and Real America

One reads about the idea of "Real America" - small town, rural. This is explicitly Republican leaning. Because it is also implicitly not black, it has been interpreted as racist. But, this kind of appeal is not solely directed against blacks, but also against Catholics - Irish(1)/Italians, recent immigrants, Jews, asians, Hispanics... A little something to convince your touchy, fence-sitting Irish friends.

Arguing for small town values seems like a loser - just over 20% of the population lives there. Insofar as arguing for small town values is a dig at city- and suburb-slickers, it seems likely to piss off big parts of the electorate.

It doesn't seem that most people take my zero sum urban/rural view. Perhaps urbanites just see it as part of the dumb pander that politicians have to do, a source of cynicism, but not outrage. Since every state has both urban and rural areas, urban voters will have been conditioned by a lifetime of watching big city politicians pitchforking hay.

The 20% also misses a large group. One aspect of modern small towns is that the young are constantly moving away. There will always be a cohort, then, which can be guilted into voting for the party identified with the values of the parents they 'abandoned.'

So, no negatives, diffuse positives, pander me up!

1. I think there was one Irish kid in my high school class

Monday, October 20, 2008

The youth vote

From an interview by Ken Silverstein of Tom Edmonds in Harper's
The other big thing is the youth vote. There’s been a lot of hype about it, but it’s not going to materialize on Election Day. Roughly 33 million people voted in the 2004 primaries, and 58 million people voted in this year’s primaries. The youth vote was up, but not nearly as much as voting by middle-aged people and old fogies. The polls are capturing the enthusiasm for Obama, but college students are not going to turn out.
There are two possible arguments that this piece is actually making:
A. A technical argument, about whether polls are properly projecting turnout. Note that all polls weight their numbers for turnout based on their model. The appropriate thing to do, then, would be to weight polls based on their previous ability to do this and average them. See here.

B. A pre-game Mad Libs style of prognostication along the lines of:
If (local sports team) can (active verb) (vague accomplishment), (conjunction) (preventing / avoiding / derailing / keeping ) (opposing team) from (another vague accomplishment) they will (statement of probability) (synonym for win).

e.g. "If the Panthers can effectively deploy Riggins, while shutting down Arnette Mead's running game, Coach Taylor's gettin' some free ribblets at the Applebee's on Saturday- if you know what I mean"

Often self satirizing as in: "If the Tigers can get at least 14 points, while holding the Browns below 14 points, they very well may win this ballgame."

The self satirization makes a point - of necessity, the only prognostication that is always true is also trivial - If Barack Obama can ammass majorities in states, the District of Columbia, or the congressional districts of Maine or Nebraska sufficient to give him a majority in the electoral college, or if neither he, nor anyone else can reach a majority, and he receives a majority of votes on a state-delegation bases in the House of Representatives, he will almost certainly be the next president of the United States.1

Consider a statement such as "If Barack Obama cannot connect with white, working class males, he cannot win this election." It is meaningless. First: white, working class males are not modems. They cannot be connected with. Second: Every white, working class male could vote against Barack Obama and he could still win, since wwcm's do not make up a majority of voters in states, the District of Columbia, or the congressional districts of... Third, if Barack Obama wins 35% of the wwcm vote and becomes the next president, he will have connected sufficiently. If Barack Obama wins 35% of the wwcm vote and does not become president, he will have connected insufficiently, even if he has received the same number of votes. The wwcm vote is not only part of a larger system, it is interconnected with, say, the wwcw vote, or the bwcch vote.2,3

The short of what I'm saying is that Barack Obama won the nomination of his party primarily due to votes from the young, the middle aged and old fogies. If he continues to do well in these age groups, he could be getting a very good night's sleep this November 4th.

1. And that statement still requires caveats!
2. black working class cracker hatin' vote
3. This is a variant of Matt Yglesias's 'these people's votes don't count' argument.

Ballot update

I called the Obama office in Boulder, and they said just fold it up so it fits and send it in.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Sent to the Boulder County Clerk's Office

From: p.e.
Subject: Ballot folding

Let me begin by apologizing. I know this is a really, really dumb question, and if you want to pass this around and make fun of me, I understand. The voting instructions say "refold ballot exactly as you received it." Now, does that mean "we sent you your ballot folded in quarters, you should send it back folded in quarters," or is it more precise? If it's just the folded in quarters (along the folds that it came with), don't read the next paragraph and just send back o.k.. Otherwise, I'm sorry.

Here's what I've done:
I have two pages. Page 1 has the U.S. presidential election on the top left of the front side. Page 2 has amendment 57 on the top left of the front side. I have put the pages in order. Next, I folded the two pages together along the short fold, giving me something with the dimensions of a piece of paper, still with the U.S. presidential election on the top left of the front page. Next I folded that along its long fold. This gave me something eight pieces of paper thick, and of the right dimensions to fit perfectly in the secrecy sleeve. I oriented the secrecy sleeve so that I could read the instructions, and the opening was on the right. I then held open the sleeve and inserted my folded ballot, again with the U.S. presidential election on the top left. I then inserted the secrecy sleeve into the return envelope closed edge down, with the instructions facing the front (addressed) side of the envelope.

Again, I apologize for the question, but this election seems rather important, and I'd rather people didn't start to think of us as the Florida of 2008.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Epic Fail

An article on Slate asks, "When did fail become a noun?" It then talks about the emergence of fail in modern culture, along with epic fail. Then the author attributes it to the proliferation of Engrish (bad translations from Japanese).

It's from D&D. I've been saying fail and crit fail (critical) since third edition, and from critical, the next logical step is Epic.

Sorry slate.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Liveblogging II

I'm not sure I can go any further.
8:25 Schieffer - take the shot.
8:25 Mc - lack of town halls made me so angry! Mc regrets that John Lewis said he was a bad person. Mc "every time a republican has said something out of bounds" O manages not to smirk. Mc goes after O for opting out of public financing.
8:28 O - dirty campaigning doesn't matter, issues matter.
8:31 O - 'kill him' 'that's out of line'
8:32 major mc snort
8:33 - mccain repeatedly tries to interrupt. obama keeps going over him. finally with s' help, mc cuts in. mc says that obama is getting fake offended at mil vets going to palin rallys
8:34 is Schieffer napping, or what?
8:35 O keeps trying to move on, but can't help but take a shot. would have done better if he skipped off.
8:36 Mc - "AYERS." equates Ayers with ACORN O keeps chucking and shaking his head
8:38 O gets a long time to rebut the charge
8:39 Mc gets the foundation name wrong
8:39 Mc "my campaign is about getting hte country on track" O giggles
8:41 Obama has a red tie. McCain has a blue tie. Discuss
8:44 Mom despises Palin's exploitation/mistreatment of her autistic kid, so she's probably hopping right now.
8:44 Obama punts on Palin's qualification, pivots to go after spending freeze.
8:45 Mc - Biden is wrong about national security. "Why do we always have to spend more?" All those Federal employees shoudl work for fluffernutter!
8:46 Mc corrects Shieffer.
8:47 Mc - canadian oil is fine
8:47 Mc thinks he's gonna get 47 nuke plants built in 4 years. Oh, no, 7-8 10 years. Well, why not manhattan project if we're looking at that much.
8:48 Obama goes after the 10 year number. Gore's number.

Screw it, I'm going for the highlights.

Third debate liveblog 1

8:02 Schieffer's tie is awesome. I love the reading of the opening rules. All debate sets small, easy to replicate on SNL. They were so close to hugging!

8:07 S. "would you like to ask him a question?" Mc. "no" then attacks O.

8:09 O's new economic plan sounds a lot like a package oh his old position.

8:10 How long are we gonna argue about Joe the plummer? Seriously.

8:12 I reiterate my question as to why small businesses cannot be taxed under their own rate.

8:13 McCain did not just interrupt Obama. OH YES HE DID.

8:14 Deficit questions. beware neo-hooverism. I note that FDR attacked hoover for an unbalanced budget, then started the new deal.

8:18 McCain just lost the corn vote. And the boeing vote. And the astronomy vote.

8:19 Unbelievably painful. I could have written this by mashing up debates #1 and #2.

8:21 Mc: If senator Obama wanted to run against President Bush, he should have fun four years ago. - oh snap.

8:24 long long long list of disagreements.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

re: The bailout

"Something must be done.
This is something,
therefore we must do it." - Bernard Woolley, Yes Prime Minister