Monthly Archives: October 2008

The Palin Effect

Surprisingly, I’ve been talking to people, and McCain’s selection of Palin has made a huge difference — a big negative effect. I spent a lot of time emphasizing that the VP pick doesn’t really make a difference, so that’s why this was surprising to me. Then again, you don’t expect a campaign to be so scatter-brained as to pick someone they hardly vetted. This is the GOP. They sacrifice the long-term for the short-term. They’d sacrifice their morals if they could win a news-cycle. Sarah Palin was all about winning the news cycle and taking away Obama’s post-convention bounce. It worked, but afterwards, McCain has been tanking in the polls.

Now, I’m not a polling outfit. I only called so many people, and they weren’t exactly randomly selected. However, it was interesting to hear Palin’s name come up unprompted when I asked who they were voting for. She really was a deal-breaker for people who might’ve given McCain more of a chance. One of my friends admires McCain a great deal (ever since 2000), and Sarah Palin was a strong factor in his decision.

Still, if you look at the empirical data, you’ll see that the Palin pick does worry a lot of people. [Note: Find those polls.] [Another note: I will probably not go back and find them.]

I never would’ve guessed that a Vice President would make that much of a difference.

The Things I Do For My Country

I have some sort of illness. I don’t think it’s a cold because the only symptom is a cough. Thus, I think it must be the SARS. Anyway, I’ve been spending my time today calling lots of my friends, encouraging them to vote for president and vote no on prop 8. After my last call, I erupted into a violent coughing fit. Geeze, the things I do for my country. Don’t tell me I’m not a patriot, Sarah Palin.

Republicans and the Realignment

I still haven’t given up on this idea of a political Realignment. Strangely enough, even though the GOP brand is poison to my generation, I’m not quite so sure this will be the case 10 years from now. If indeed the big divide will be between young and old, the Democrats still look like they’ll defend the status quo of social security, which is becoming increasingly unwieldy. If the Republicans rediscover empiricism, there might be a window in which they can steal the young vote. Of course, this may all be hogwash and the future party of Palin will get crushed by Obama, and won’t recover for a generation.

Close the Book

Life doesn’t neatly fit into chapters. When (if?) we end the Republican reign by electing Obama and several more Democrats, it won’t be the end of the ugly side of the Republican Party. Face it, they won’t wake up after election day. They didn’t wake up when we didn’t find the WMDs, when we screwed up Iraq, when we tortured, when they lost in 2006, and they’re not going to wake up now. They’ve laid the seeds for their denial of reality with their false claims of voter fraud and their villification of ACORN. They’ll cry that McCain didn’t take the gloves off (when all his negative attacks were the cause of his rapid fall in the polls) and their hero will be Sarah “Palling around with terrorists” Palin. Even if they lose the election, this isn’t over. This isn’t over by a long-shot.

After the fall of the Bush-Republicans should begin the rise of a new Republican Party, but it won’t happen automatically. The Ugly Republicans — the Rovians, et al — have a stranglehold on the Republican media, talk radio and the like. We see glimmers of honesty. Even on Fox News, you have Chris Wallace questioning McCain about his robocalls. You have the Ron Paul Republicans who want to “Restore the republic.” That’s so refreshing after 9/11 brought in the age of the “homeland.” And everywhere, you have Republicans who aren’t racist fuckheads, who aren’t asshole Machiavellians, who aren’t heartless torturers, and who aren’t incompetent, proud ignoramuses. The trick is to get us, even though we won’t agree on everything, to band together and kick out the incompetent party hacks who got us here in the first place. That’s going to be a lot of work.

So as much as we would like to close the book on the Bush Age, it’s not going to happen. The Republican Party needs to be transformed. The loss is a necessary condition for such a change, but it, alas, is not sufficient for the change. It will require hard work, especially on the intellectual end. Conservatism, as we know it, must die a little death. It will not change into something altogether new (conservatives don’t believe such a thing is possible anyway), but it must be something modern. It must see how human nature works, and not vow to reform human nature itself, but put in fetters to restrain our dangerous tendencies. Yes, this means regulation is necessary, but we should be judicious. It means a conservatism which respects ancient laws, like habeas corpus. It must be scientific, not anti-science. It must respect the planet. As much as I’d like to go on, I’ll stop here because this isn’t something that can fit in one weblog entry.

Even for you who aren’t conservative, remember that the real work begins after the election. The Democrats have continually caved in to Bush’s demands, thus garnering approval ratings lower than Mr. President himself. They are also in the pockets of several business interests. Obama himself voted the wrong way on telecom immunity. We’ll finally have a president who’ll listen to us, but you have to make sure you shout louder than the enemies of liberty and democracy.


I’m really tired of conservatives who worship Reagan as a god (or as I often vulgarly put it: “Stop sucking Reagan’s dead cock”). I keep coming back to this one quip from Reagan: “The nine most terrifying words in the English language are: ‘I’m from the government and I’m here to help.'” Then, I think, what if he had said this after Hurricane Katrina? I don’t think conservatism can survive if it continues to be so anti-government. Yes, we can be skeptical, but you cannot start with the premise that it is inherently impossible for the government can do anything right. (For the moment, let’s ignore Bush and the Republican Congress’s massive expansion of the state.)

Josh’s Story

Weirdjosh: I have a story with a simple beginning
Weirdjosh: come with me on a journey
Weirdjosh: My arms are sore
Weirdjosh: from last night. while I was here, I had to go up to the server cages to do some work, as you might expect
Weirdjosh: but I had forgotten something downstairs after I unlocked the door and started setting up
Weirdjosh: so I had to go back down, and before I left I locked up
Weirdjosh: problem: I had taken the keys out of my pocket and put them on the console to keep them from digging into my leg while I moved around
Weirdjosh: and neglected to put them back in again when I left because I was distracted by having forgotten that thing
Weirdjosh: so now I’m outside of a locked cage with the key to the cage inside
SCHIZO KILLER: excellent
Weirdjosh: I’ll have to paint you a better picture before I move on
Weirdjosh: these cages I’m talking about are fenced in areas of a building filled with racks of servers. there’s about 12 or so racks in cage two, each of which must hold at least 20 servers if not more
Weirdjosh: the room itself that contains these cages has a very high ceiling with exposed air conditioning ad wire racks because they need to be maintained and worked on so often
Weirdjosh: so the fences go up to the height of a typical size, but the ceiling continues on above it, with rafters and stuff all over
Weirdjosh: so I quickly assessed the situation and realized I had a choice
Weirdjosh: I could call Brian at 2 am and tell him I’d locked myself out and could he please come and bail me out
Weirdjosh: or I could climb the cage myself and get the stupid key back, and hope that security didn’t think that was too weird
Weirdjosh: you may well guess which I chose based on my story’s beginning

What’s Left of Christianity?

Applying my tactic of deconstructing systems in order to sift for the truth, I cannot reject Christianity outright, I think. It is not all bad, and has not produced uniform evil.

It would be easy to divide Christianity into the miraculous and moral, to try to separate the non-earthly elements from the earthly elements. (I think of Thomas Jefferson’s version of the gospels.) No, I think you must deconstruct the morality of Christianity. There is some good in it and some bad in it. I don’t think atheists can properly communicate with (and perhaps convert?) Christians until we stop harping only on the spiritual aspects of religion. We must engage with them and show how not only their myths are wrong, but that their moral system is inadequate.

I bring this up because a prime trait of the so-called New Atheists is deploying the tactic of ridicule. It’s a good tactic, and appropriate at times, but it will not win the debate. That being said, none of what I have said is particularly new. I’ve heard excellent defenses of the morality of secularism versus the prize-in-heaven religious morality. However, we must be even more specific. What specifically can we preserve from Christianity?

So those are my initial thoughts, and I think it would be a good exercise to go through the parables, and see what’s worth saving.

Drunk Moving

A good time to get drunk is when you’re moving, especially if you’re a packrat. When you’re drunk, you don’t really care when you throw things away. By the time you think about what you’ve done, it’s too late.

I don’t think this works as well if you have children.

A Lie and a Truth

One of the cruelest things you can do is tell a lie and a truth at the same time. A deliberate mixture of truth and lies is hard to separate. People tend to either swallow it whole, or reject it all outright. The acceptors point to the truth and ignore the lie. The rejectors point to the lie and reject the truth. Neither of them will agree with each other. If it’s your guy, or the other guy, then you’ll take up your respective side without much thought for segregating the truth and the lie. Each side thinks the other side looks silly. They are both right.

The quest for knowledge involves not looking at systems always as whole systems. Systems of thought, even when they appear to have a keystone, are often separable into truths, lies, falsehoods, bullshit, and various states in-between. It’s your job to figure out what’s what, not to reject or accept outright.

A Boring Debate

I didn’t pay as much attention to the debate today. Usually, I invite several friends over for the debate, and it’s very rowdy. Today, it was very quiet. I also have an essay hanging over my head.

Did anyone else get this sense of strange cognitive dissonance while listening to McCain on foreign policy. I mean, he was saying things that I thought made some sense. He sounded very pragmatic, at times. He noted that he knew when to send people in harm’s way and when to show restraint. Yet all of that is belied by the big fat counterexample of Iraq. Not only was McCain wrong, but he was disastrously wrong. He never thought it would be difficult. He believed Bush’s “Mission Accomplished” banner. He would say things that were right, but all the while, I was shouting “bullshit” in my head. Undoubtedly, I would’ve said it aloud if there were more people over.

The Gunfight Analogy

The Obama campaign released its documentary on the Keating 5 scandal, which John McCain was directly involved in. I think the move is genius. You can analogize all the negative campaigning to a gunfight.

There’s Senator McCain (this summer) firing wildly. Obama ducks behind the bar. McCain continues to fire wildly. Everyone encourages Obama to stand up and trade bullets, but Obama stays in his spot. McCain runs out of bullets (he’s re-using old attack lines). Then, Obama stands up. BOOM. Keating 5.

Why We Write

I have been meaning to link this, from Anirudh, Why I maintain a weblog. It’s a wonderful piece of succinct writing, and I agree with its sentiments. Here’s an excerpt:

The most beautiful part, as I now realize, is to be able to look back on yourself, like a time capsule. For some reason, I have a very very weak memory. I frequenty encounter things that I did not fully remember doing (for example, I found out I own ), and it feels nice to remember what I felt during certain periods of time.

But the most important thing is this:
My main goal in life is to grow and change for the better. And this weblog seems to be physical proof that I have.

Read the whole thing.

Fox News Poll

This poll from Fox News is interesting. I’m sure that Palin’s name is in red just to provide some contrast. It’s the middle choice, so you need some different color in order for people to see it. I mean, if people can’t see Palin’s name, how can they know that they’re voting for the right choice?

Fox News Poll

Specifically, redux

Palin from the debate tonight:

There have been huge blunders in the war. There have been huge blunders throughout this administration, as there are with every administration.

But for a ticket that wants to talk about change and looking into the future, there’s just too much finger-pointing backwards to ever make us believe that that’s where you’re going.

Positive change is coming, though. Reform of government is coming. We’ll learn from the past mistakes in this administration and other administrations.

[emphasis added]

Palin from Couric’s interview:

Couric: When President Bush ran for office, he opposed nation-building. But he has spent, as you know, much of his presidency promoting democracy around the world. What lessons have you learned from Iraq? And how specifically will you try to spread democracy throughout the world?

Palin: Specifically, we will make every effort possible to help spread democracy for those who desire freedom, independence, tolerance, respect for equality. That is the whole goal here in fighting terrorism also. It’s not just to keep the people safe, but to be able to usher in democratic values and ideals around this, around the world.

Riddle me this, Batman: What, specifically, did Palin learn from from the Bush Administration’s mistakes?

Palin on the Financial Crisis

I wanted to point this out, to show how Palin was dodging the questions. The portion I’ve excerpted from the transcript is rather long, but you need all of this to illustrate how inept Palin is.

IFILL: Senator Biden, you voted for this bankruptcy bill. Senator Obama voted against it. Some people have said that mortgage- holders really paid the price.

BIDEN: Well, mortgage-holders didn’t pay the price. Only 10 percent of the people who are — have been affected by this whole switch from Chapter 7 to Chapter 13 — it gets complicated.

But the point of this — Barack Obama saw the glass as half- empty. I saw it as half-full. We disagreed on that, and 85 senators voted one way, and 15 voted the other way.

But here’s the deal. Barack Obama pointed out two years ago that there was a subprime mortgage crisis and wrote to the secretary of Treasury. And he said, “You’d better get on the stick here. You’d better look at it.”

John McCain said as early as last December, quote — I’m paraphrasing — “I’m surprised about this subprime mortgage crisis,” number one.

Number two, with regard to bankruptcy now, Gwen, what we should be doing now — and Barack Obama and I support it — we should be allowing bankruptcy courts to be able to re-adjust not just the interest rate you’re paying on your mortgage to be able to stay in your home, but be able to adjust the principal that you owe, the principal that you owe.

That would keep people in their homes, actually help banks by keeping it from going under. But John McCain, as I understand it — I’m not sure of this, but I believe John McCain and the governor don’t support that. There are ways to help people now. And there — ways that we’re offering are not being supported by — by the Bush administration nor do I believe by John McCain and Governor Palin.

IFILL: Governor Palin, is that so?

PALIN: That is not so, but because that’s just a quick answer, I want to talk about, again, my record on energy versus your ticket’s energy ticket, also.

I think that this is important to come back to, with that energy policy plan again that was voted for in ’05.

When we talk about energy, we have to consider the need to do all that we can to allow this nation to become energy independent.

It’s a nonsensical position that we are in when we have domestic supplies of energy all over this great land. And East Coast politicians who don’t allow energy-producing states like Alaska to produce these, to tap into them, and instead we’re relying on foreign countries to produce for us.

We’re talking about a bankruptcy bill. Biden transitions to how we should deal with the problem now. Biden points out how McCain was surprised that there was a subprime mortgage crisis, and how McCain, Bush, and Palin are out of touch.

Palin responds, (I’m paraphrasing) “No, that’s not right, and now I’m going to talk about energy policy.” What the fuck. No one has talked about it for several minutes. We’re talking about the financial crisis. You try to show that you’re not out of touch by completely ignoring the issue. Brilliant. Apparently, your answer to the mortgage crisis is “drill, baby, drill.”

She doesn’t know what she’s talking about, and when she’s in unfamiliar territory, she resorts to changing the topic. It’s quite masterful really. First, she brings up the energy bill, which they did talk about. Then, she uses that as a spring-board to talk about energy independence, which has nothing to do with anything. I want to call it a non sequitur, but it’s not. She’s just playing word association. She dodges the question, brings up something unrelated from several minutes ago, and then brings up an entirely new subject.

This is why Joe Biden won.

Most Improved Award

I was talking with Lloyd before the debate, and my prediction was that the right-wing pundit class would give Palin the “Most Improved” Award and then declare victory. Of course, even the left-wing pundits were also giving her “most improved” props. You didn’t hear it in such words. You heard, “exceeded expectations,” etcetera. It’s junk, and she was horrible. Just because she cleared a bar so low she could hop over it merely by being somewhat coherent, doesn’t mean she did a good job. Palin spent all of her time filibustering. She never actually said anything; she never actually answered the question. And because of the debate format, no one could challenge her on that. Her performance was pathetic, and everyone would’ve said so had she not been even more pathetic with the Couric interview.

If you want to label a lack of understanding of the issues as “folksiness,” then be my guest, but “doggone it,” I have never actually heard anyone say “doggone it” in my life. (Unironically, that is.) She said McCain picked her because of her closeness to the Heartland, but she’s almost from Canada. Please.

It’s funny how pathetic the right-wing spin is. The idea is that was she was supposed to re-energize a base who’d become somewhat disillusioned. If she does so by not being embarrassingly pathetic, then the Republican Party really is garbage. I mean, look at them recently. They’ve become a party of whiners, decrying Couric’s softball questions as “liberal elite bias.” They cried that they didn’t vote for a bill because Nancy Pelosi’s speech was too mean. It’s a worthless party, and Palin is a worthless candidate.

Biden killed her. Ask anyone who hates the war, and you’ll see how successful Biden was in tying McCain-Palin to Bush-Cheney. Then, look at Bush’s approval rating. Sorry, Palin’s best response is “He’s a maverick!” Let me also say this, on every issue in the last few years where McCain has bucked his party, he’s been on the wrong side. He was for that horrible “comprehensive” immigration bill. He was for that 1st Amendment-bashing McCain-Feingold finance reform. Notice how she never brings those bills up. NEVER. “Maverick”? Whatever, that fall-back talking point doesn’t cut it if you can’t be specific. It’s an empty phrase, and she is an empty candidate.

Congrats, Palin. You won the “Most Improved Award.” It means nothing.