Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Happy Wednesday!

I was going to post some absolutely terrifying tales, but then I realized it was Happy Wednesday, so you will get the sadness tomorrow.

For now I leave you with this suggestion: If you are asked "Trick or Treat" demand a trick.

No child will be as compelling as this performing monkey, but it is holiday, so you should only beat them mildly for their failure.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

A thought on charity

With the silly hurricane in silly New York, the internet is ablaze with calls to send them aid via the red cross.

Nothing against the red cross, as they often do very good work, but the truth is that even after a hurricane the people of the Northeast will still be better off than most people in the world.

If tragedy moves you to give charity, I recommend the March of Dimes, the unofficial charity of Entirely Alive. Not only are they helping a tremendously vulnerable and completely helpless population, how many other charities have actually accomplished their goal and moved on to greater ambitions?

If that seems too disconnected to make you feel warm and fuzzy, then quit being a selfish twat and philanthropize to help people instead of to boost your ego.

That said, Doctors without Borders and the Against Malaria foundation both do good work.

The people helped by these charities will, even after your generous contribution, still lead more wretched lives than the most storm-wrecked Atlantic City slum-dweller, but that donation will go uncountably further to alleviate human suffering than will that same aid dollar in New Jersey.

Government doing what it is best at

Story time! :)

Teen threatens suicide.

Panicked parents call the government for help.

Government sniper shoots child.

:(

Gary Johnson

Pre-Post Note: If you have never heard of Gary Johnson, here is his campaign bio. A more objective bio can be found on Wikipedia. A less comprehensive take to get a "feel" for Johnson is here, and a more comprehensive take is here. I would encourage you to look at at least one of these links before voting.

I have already ruled out Barack Obama and Mitt Romney as viable options for my vote.

Jill Stein is a Green Party Euro-socialist, and would probably consider that a complement. While she seems nice enough, I will not be voting for Jill Stein. At least she doesn't support the presidential kill list, though she does call the the "oil wars", so caveat emptor there.

The only other candidate on the ballot is Gary Johnson. This means that my options are voting for Gary Johnson, writing in Rutherford B. Hayes, or staying home.

Staying home is not really an option, because I will be voting during my lunch break, and we won't be busy on election day, so there is no real reason not to take a (slightly) longer lunch.

Since Hayes is dead, he isn't constitutionally eligible to be president, so that would be a wasted vote.

This means that Gary Johnson has a very low bar to get my vote. Fortunately, he exceeds that low standard.

Gary Johnson climbed Mount Everest. Gary Johnson was twice elected Governor of New Mexico where he balanced budgets, vetoed regulation, and lowered taxes. Gary Johnson opposes the war on drugs, the war in Iraq, the war in Libya, and, now that OBL is dead and Al-Qaeda scattered, the continued war in Afghanistan. Gary Johnson believes in free trade at home and abroad and the expansion of legal immigration. Gary Johnson opposes bailouts for the rich, crony capitalism, too big to fail, and the government ownership of private businesses. Gary Johnson opposes Obamacare. Gary Johnson has a track record of reducing Medicare expenditures and a real plan to make incremental reforms for the big three entitlements so that they don't go away and don't bankrupt the nation. Gary Johnson supports FEMA, commercial space travel, safety regulations, food labels, and large chunks of the American safety net. Gary Johnson has a hot bod. Gary Johnson opposes the presidential kill list.

Gary Johnson has a low bar this year to get my vote. He would exceed even a very high bar.

I will be voting for Gary Johnson for President next Tuesday around lunchtime.

I encourage you to do the same.

Wasted Votes

"The only wasted vote is for a candidate you do not believe in"
People like to say that every vote counts. This is not true. Every vote is counted, but none of them actually matter.

This election is one week away, and when I vote on election day it will be far too late to change anyone's mind about anything. Mitt Romney could rape a child and set him on fire on live TV and still get 180 electoral votes.

For Mitt Romney to win (sans child rape) he needs to pick up Ohio and one other state (probably Colorado). Let us pretend that we are a Colorado voter and the election has already been called in Ohio. We go to the polls all excited because we are the last swing state to vote (if RMONEY has won OHIO, Montana and Arizona are out of play). Except our vote still doesn't matter.

Let us pretend that every poll worker is a saint. This is not true, but it is astonishingly close to what 99.9% of America will see on election night. That doesn't matter because they are still people. Even the voting machines are fallible. If you recall the close elections in Minnesota in 2006 (?) and Florida in 2000, every single recount had a different tally. This is because when you are counting millions of votes, even using the exact same methods and people, you will get oh so slightly different outcomes each time.

Think about your own life. Most of the time you get along just fine with counting. Every now and then, however, you will be standing in line at the supermarket counting up fruit and you will skip the number four. Then when you go to check out you will see you are short one tomato and don't have enough to make dinner properly. This doesn't happen often, maybe one in a thousand trips to the supermarket, which in the normal course of your life turns out to be once every ten or twenty years.

If you mess up at counting once every thousand time, or once every hundred thousand times, that means that your counting ability has an error rate. From a statistical point of view, whenever you count to ten you should really say "ten, plus or minus .00001". When ten becomes two million, suddenly you need to say "two million, plus or minus a thousand".

The point being that if the race is sufficiently close, your vote doesn't exist. Even if, in some platonic Real World you cast the absolute 50%+1 decisive ballot, that ballot gets lost in the almost quantum fuzziness of statistical error. The error bars will hardly notice you.

"But," I hear you saying, "I am still moving those error bars a tiny bit, right?" No. The answer is no, you are not. Because the moment the race falls into that statistical window of uncertainty (and typically a little before that if you have litigious candidates) out come the lawyers. Your vote won't matter in a close race because it will go to the courts, and possibly the state or federal legislature depending on the race, and only the opinions of incumbent politicians and/or unelected judges will matter.

In short, in most states your vote doesn't matter because the election might as well have been decided two months ago, and in swing states your vote won't matter because if it is close the courts will take over.

By the time it comes to actually step into the ballot box, your vote is purely an expressive gesture, no matter who you are voting for.

By the way, this doesn't just apply to the president. This is the first general election after redistricting, meaning that your state legislature has spent the last two years shopping around for exactly the set of voters that would protect the most incumbents and maximize the favored party's seats. And believe me, as someone who does this for a living, we can get very detailed about exactly which voters would do the best for which candidates. Perhaps when you get down to the very bottom of the ballot your vote could have some impact, though even there the races tend to break either along strict party lines or in lopsided defeats for the less well known candidate.

This goes against the grain of years of government funded propaganda, but the fact is that your vote doesn't matter. Not in any state, not for any candidate anywhere near the top of the ballot.

When people tell me that they agree with Gary Johnson, but don't want to waste their vote, it takes every ounce of my steely will not to slap the ignorant out of them.

Monday, October 29, 2012

The more things change

There is an old saying I was reminded of on this evening's trip to Walmart, "The more things change, the more they are different from how they previously were."

A co-worker spoke to me today, she said something like, well you are only twenty four...

Twenty four? That did not sound right. I began to do the math when I stopped myself and thought, don't be silly, you know how old you are...

right?

I ended up doing the math. It wasn't twenty four. I had to use a calculator.

Anyway, it is Halloween at Walmart, and I guess it is nearly so everywhere, but the candy is all slightly different. The sweet tarts are bigger. I don't like them, because the size they used to be was just right and this size is too large. Also, there are about 1000 different kinds of skittles. My favorite kind (not that the normal sort aren't excellent), sour skittles, was no where to be seen. Then, checking out, I spied one at the bottom of a bargain bin. It came in a box. Since when do skittles come in boxes? Furthermore, when I opened it (after having purchased what appeared to be the last box in the bargain bin) I discovered that the box was a mere facade, for within was concealed a single serving sized bag of skittles. I remember the sour powder being exquisitely ephemeral, but the sour does not seem to last as long as it used to.

Of course, being an "adult" with my own income means I don't have to worry about getting a bad candy draw. Fewer surprises, but having bags of nerds and twix and one box of sour skittles should more than compensate.

Anyway I was there for notepaper and pencils. There was a very large family blocking the school supply aisle all doting on three elementary school girls. I watched as they jabbered like magpies in a language on the indo- side of the indo-european language family. Eventually they migrated and allowed me access to the pencils. Immediately my mind shifted into a gear that, though disused, bore no rust, that of a middle-school pencil connoisseur.

I weighed each package for price and quality, motors whirring, eyes passing to each in turn. I purchased a chromatic package of twenty four knowing that I would never, never use the yellow ones, and that those would be the only ones to never get lost.

I never had a similar affinity for paper, probably because I always spent far more time fiddling with the pencils then I did actually writing anything down. Throughout school I never took notes. I do not know if it is a consequence of this or not, but if I make a small effort to remember something, I will hold onto it for a very long time. If I do not make that effort it will flow out of my mind like so much water, lost before the words are finished being said.

Composition notebooks, the ones that have the weird black and white camo pattern on them (though now they come in all sorts of designs) seem bigger than they used to, and less sturdily constructed.

I purchased these things and a few others at the automated register. I did not interact with a single human being during my trip.

Walking out I smelled, in the crisp night air of the Texan Autumn, a terribly familiar scent of pico de gallo. A specific pico, with roasted overtones and warmed tortillas. There is a Mexican restaurant across the parking lot, but I have never been there (not for any particular reason, I just haven't) and it was closed, leaving the odor sourceless.

I got in my car and hit play on my telephone. I just reloaded the memory card, so I am not really sure what is on there at the moment. The first song I ever had an emotional connection with came up. I drove home to the nostalgic tones of Dobie Gray.

Friday, October 26, 2012

This bothers me a whole lot

Holy hell, I just cannot escape the politics today, but this really, really bothers me.

In an otherwise mediocre account of the last decade's progressive movement comes this paragraph (emphasis added):
The progressives began replicating conservative institutions. For every Heritage Foundation, there would be a Center for American Progress. For every Fox News Channel, there would be an MSNBC. For every group of wealthy Republican donors, there would be a secretive, leftwing Democracy Alliance. For every Federalist Society bringing together conservative lawyers, there would be an American Constitution Society of liberal ones. The primary mission of all the money flowing through this network of activists, intellectuals, and publicists was to sponsor attacks on Bush, his administration, and his tax, social, judicial, and foreign policies. Half of Washington was organized around the principle of opposing one man. Bush was that despised by the left.
It is that word "secretive". Yes, the writer almost certainly believes that the conservative versions of these institutions are more correct, but the fundamental point he is getting at is that the progressives established equal and opposite institutions. And those institutions were, as institutions, equivalent to the conservative ones.

But then he goes and throws incendiary terms in the mix. I would not claim that DA is not secretive, but they are no more secretive than any other group of wealthy donors out there.

Partisanship makes me sad :( 

Mitt Romney is Not Good Enough

First off, Mitt Romney is not Satan. He is not Hitler. He has never, AFIAK, ordered the extra-judicial murder of an American Citizen. Mitt Romney is not immediately unacceptable.

Also, he has a record as a fairly competent administrator in both the private and public sectors. There is little doubt that he is capable of performing the tasks required of the American President.

Added bonuses: He is a Mormon, the most American of religions, and I think I would appreciate four years of writing about RMONEY, his alternate rapper persona.

Further, RMONEY talks a good game (for a Republican). The promises on his website are reasonably detailed (for campaign promises) and many of the notoriously unfortunate GOP positions, like the drug war, are completely missing.

This issue is not that RMONEY talks a good game, it is that he talks EVERY game. This is something widely known. We already know that we can't trust campaign promises. Obama promised a net spending cut, W promised a humble foreign policy, Bush SR promised no new taxes, FDR campaigned to cut government spending. After these (and countless more), I don't expect any politician to do what he says he is going to, but few have quite the record of stance shifting that RMONEY has.

That means I do not trust RMONEY to consistently nominate freedom-loving judges, nor to abolish the presidential kill list once he has it in his grubby fingers. He won't end the war on drugs, or indeed any war anywhere. He will not cut spending, except possibly in a few tiny areas to draw some headlines. Spending, already at historic highs, will continue to outpace the economy. He can't and won't do anything about gay people, abortion, voter IDs, or eminent domain. He hasn't been running for president the last six years because of any deeply held, articulable philosophy, but because he wants to be president.

While I would love to be not disappointed, I judge the likelyhood that Romney will fail to live up to those of his promises which are good to be astonishingly low, even for a mainstream politician.

At the heart of the issue, I simply do not believe that what this country needs right now (or, really, ever) is a go-along, get-along mainstream politician. Mitt Romney has not got a radical bone in his body, and in an era where suggesting that trillion dollar deficits spending is unsustainable, where state and federal governments take 28% of every dollar earned and spend 38% of every dollar spent, that is simply unacceptable.

That is quite enough of that!

I wake up in the morning and the headlines are about the election. I go to work and spend all day helping politicians get elected. I go home in the evening and the news is about the election. Then I play with my kittens and feel better.

But kittens are not enough! I am absolutely sick to death of the whole "elections" nonsense. It is high time we wrote back to Queen Elizabeth and explained to her that the whole "Declaration of Independence" nonsense was an elaborate gag that got way out of hand. She seems like a reasonable sort, so I suspect if we ask really nicely she will come back and we will not have to worry about elections for the rest of her life. Even after she passes (long live the queen), hereditary monarchy has the added benefit of automatically selecting the next ruler for life.

And you really don't get much more reasonable than the English monarchy. Sure the whole taxation without representation is a little unfortunate, but I rather suspect that if we hadn't made such a fuss over it the tea tax would have gone away in due time. Or maybe not, but that isn't the point.

The point is that everything would be so much easier with a queen (or king) instead of a bothersome trio of president, congress, and courts. After 9/11, Her Majesty could just have said, "off with his head" and Bin Laden would have been executed, instead of the decade long mess we found ourselves in. And, of course, you can't have a presidential kill list if you don't have a president, so that solves a problem right there!

Now, I understand if Queen Elizabeth is too busy to take on new responsibilities. At her age, she certainly deserves time for herself to do whatever it is she enjoys (probably lots of snogging with her hottie boy-toy). But if there is one thing the world does not lack, it is monarchs. Certainly, this hemisphere has had a definite lack of absolute hereditary autocrats since the passing of Emperor Norton, but Europe is absolutely littered with royalty, some of whom are even respectable.

For the sake of history, I hear the Greek King isn't doing much nowadays, though of course with the current situation being what it is, that could change. Still, a king named Constantine would definitely add some heft to the notions of the American Empire as a Fourth Rome, and being a borrowed dynasty in the first place he should have no problems taking up a new residence.

The Dutch, of course, were practicing the sort of mercantile melting-pot America prides itself on before the pilgrims even set foot on Plymouth Rock. Both Queen Beatrix and her son look like such nice people that I can't imagine anything going wrong. Prince W-A is active in water management issues, a sorely under appreciated and critically important issue in a country as full of deserts, farms, and arid high plains as America.

If we wanted to get really creative, I would bet we could get Emperor Akihito to come around. Not only would this cement a crucial Trans-Pacific alliance, an emperor beats out a mere king any day. They say Asia is the rising power nowadays, so he might be a particularly inspired choice of monarch. Added bonus, the daughter of the crown prince is named Akio, "written with kanji character for "love (愛)" and "child (子)"" making it a magnificent inter-linguistic pun.

The point is that I am absolutely sick of this election nonsense, and with so many sensible monarchs running around nowadays with far too little to do it is absolutely criminal that we haven't picked one up for ourselves.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Links Parade!

New Policy: I will no longer be saving links for certain days. Instead I will post links whenever my browser starts running slow.
  • PRIORITY ONE: If you read only one more thing for the rest of your life, you probably shouldn't waste that on this. If, however, you are a normal person, you should read this now.
I was saving these for when I do the Romney examination, but here they are now.
  • The magnificent Vodkapundit attempts to make the libertarian case for Romney.
  • Some guy I have never heard of rebuts.
  • I find the rebuttal fairly weak, but Vodkapundit does not quite sell me either. More next week(?)
And now, links:
  • A description of socialist experiments before Marx even began theorizing. Spoiler: they all collapsed in poverty and suffering.
  • Tyler Cowen on California's Prop 37.
  • Absolutely brilliant something from Hark, A Vagrant. Warning: contains Canadian Themed humor and therefore not suitable for Real Americans.
  • A history of the scientific and human benefits of the Redbull Stratos Jump and the previous attempt fifty years earlier.
  • The EPA conducted experiments on people. Heck, I remember having to get IRB approval to do a Facebook study, and the EPA can't even live up to that standard.
  • The most cogent defense of the electoral college I have ever heard.
  • Congresswoman Wasserman Shultz (a name which belongs on a Bavarian Countess, not a Congressperson, IMO) feigns ignorance. I say feigns because the alternative, even for a hippy California politician, is really too depressing to contemplate.
  • This is being spun as an "endorsement" of Obama by the Iranians, but what it really sounds like is the administration continuing to leak highly sensitive material for naked partisan political gain right before the foreign policy debate. Not that Obama hasn't been endorsed by dictators, as well as the UN, but I always wonder with people who know they are disliked if they are truly hoping to convince Americans to vote for or against the endorsed candidate.
  • An anecdote relating to the very difficult question of how many and what sort of rights do severely mentally impaired people have. Too little and you risk dehumanizing them. Too many and you risk allowing suffering. Any restrictions imposed on the mentally deficient must respond to the Szazian critique. And, of course, we can never forget how psychiatry was used in the Soviet Union.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

An adventure in future land!

I spend so much time today staring at a glowing rectangle simulating the historical progression of Japan from 1840 to 1930 (highly recommended, BTW) that I had completely forgotten to eat for the last six hours and was, consequently, famished.

I paused the game and took mental inventory of the food in my apartment. In the freezer there are an assortment of Tupperware containers with meat and vegetables I had previously diced for use in either soup or rice. There is a package of ready made bacon, microwavable tacos, sausage biscuits, and cat treats that really don't taste that bad at all. In the refrigerator there is a bottle of salsa, numerous cans of soda, and some tins of cat food which both smells and tastes terrible. In the pantry is popcorn, rice, ramen, canned chili (goes great with the rice), tortilla chips, pretzels, and dry cat kibble. In the holes of the cinder blocks that form the foundation of my ultra-ghetto furniture are sunflower seeds, peanuts, saltine crackers, and potato chips. I thought to myself (briefly, and then felt shame afterwards) "there isn't anything to eat in here". Even after the requisite shame, I still decided that I wanted something that was not any of the things in the apartment.

I gathered myself together and walked outside where I own a two ton cage of metal that has some decorative fiberglass (a material that did not exist when my grandmother was born) wrapped around it and some windows. I got inside and set down in the cup-holder a box, slightly larger than my palm and thinner than my finger, which holds around 2000 musical recordings from around the world, curated from a much larger personal collection stored on this computer, which is itself dwarfed by the recorded musical collection of humanity from the last hundred years. When I activated it, this tiny box began a personal concert with recordings from America, Ireland, America again, and Japan.

I then stuck a key into the cage and it began to roar with the explosive combustion of hundred million year old fossilized plankton and, as I kicked and shoved and spun an array of levers, wheels, and knobs, the flaming ultra-dense sludge of corpses pushed two tons of metal, plastic, and myself forward (well, first backwards, but then forwards). I slowly navigated this monstrous hulk out onto a public roadway-- fossilized plankton heated, mixed with rocks crushed by mechanical power exceeding the strength of a thousand men, and rolled to a flatness with no parallel in nature-- and was propelled forward at super human speed for nearly ten miles. A journey that would have taken perhaps three hours to walk was completed in fifteen minutes to the distracting and pleasurable tones of the best musicians in human history.

I arrived at one of the thousands of food distribution centers in the city. This particular one was part of a chain of over one thousand, six hundred distribution centers around the nation which, paired with the supply chain behind them, provide food that is tastier and healthier than what all but the wealthiest of men throughout history have enjoyed, and they do it on a scale unimaginable to the famine racked halls of history. There are dozens of institutions like this around the country, with countless more operating similarly on smaller scales. As a side note, remember that America has never in it's 230 year history experienced a famine.

After purchasing a meal for a pittance, I sat down and pulled out my magic box. The box is covered in plastic-- another application of ultra-concentrated fossilized corpses-- but the insides that make it tick are a simply baked sand carved with designs smaller than the eye can see with lasers and treated with an assortment of chemicals. I make it do things by tapping the glass-like pane directly atop the monitor which reacts to the microscopic electrical impulses in the human finger. I had ended the concert before entering the restaurant out of courtesy, and now I call up instead a book, a written treatise of the last two hundred and fifty years of Chinese history, compiled and written in a manner that is both entertaining and informative by a person who has made the study of that particular subset of history his entire career. I read and eat and return home.

We live in the future.

And yet, there is every reason to expect science to continue improving our lives, and every reason to think that we will grow wealthier, able to afford more and better things than we enjoy even in the diamond utopia of modern America.

Friday, October 19, 2012

A Pre-Election examination of President Obama

At this very moment, I am an undecided voter. This is the first of three posts in which I go through the major candidates for president. By the end, I expect I will have made up my mind.

I will begin with the easy choice: I absolutely cannot vote for Barack Obama for President. I doubt this surprises anyone, but for the sake of completeness, allow me to list the reasons why, as well as why not.

I will avoid references to Mr. Obama's competitors in this post. Perhaps they are better and perhaps they are not, but the problems I have with the President are things that he has done or not done. This is because, as the Libertarian Party is so fond of saying, the only wasted vote is a vote for a candidate you do not truly support.

A digression on the duty of voting: Voting is not a civic duty, and is not intrinsically good. Not voting does not somehow disqualify a person from complaint. When I conclude at the end of this post (spoilers!) that I do not consider Obama an acceptable recipient of my vote, I mean that as a reflection on him, not as a reflection of my options. To Godwinize myself, if the election were between Obama and Hitler, I would not vote for either. If Obama won, I would spend the next four years complaining. If Hitler won I would engage in armed rebellion. But I will not vote for a candidate I do not support.

Postscript: this got really long and I am sick of it. I think I hit a bunch of major points, and certainly enough to keep me from voting for him, but this is certainly not comprehensive.

If you, dear reader, notice something I have missed and feel so inclined, do post any additional things Obama has done. Include links if you can.

The Economy

The president is not, and has never been, a key driving force in the economy. This, I realize, goes against the media narrative of the last many decades, but is absolutely true. I can tell you that back when I took Mathematical Macroeconomics (with the esteemed Bob Elder) we covered a great number of things that can impact an economy, from changes in government spending to imports and exports to technological shifts. Even the imperial presidency we currently live under only has the power to affect these things at the margins through regulatory changes and executive branch employment policies (an example of the latter would be when Truman unilaterally desegregated the military). He also has a role in affirming or vetoing acts of the national legislature, though Mr. Obama has only vetoed legislation twice in the last four years. Not to say that he would not have used the veto pen more often if faced with a strong GOP opposition, but the counter-factual is moot.

The place where this president has exercised the most influence over the economy is by upsetting what Keynes called the "animal spirits" of the economy. Many on Wall Street seem to believe that Mr. Obam is the singular impediment to the growth of the economy, as do many businessmen. I can personally attest that my entrepreneur father believes this, as do all his entrepreneur friends. Yes, he lives in a conservative bubble where he can hardly imagine a thinking person voting for Obama, but so do many business owners, going all the way up to Jack Welch who, despite being a 2008 Obama supporter, is sufficiently ensconced in his bubble that he believed it appropriate to tweet that the President was falsifying the unemployment rate for political gain.

Yes, you can come up with a scenario in which the president starts murdering business owners, but there is no realistic scenario in which even an activist president can shave more than a quarter of a percentage point off GDP growth-- that can be dramatic over time, but the recession has hardly reached the "over time" phase.

As an aside, Obama came into office promising to fix the economy. That promise was stupid. He also promised to "halt the rise of the oceans", and a more Canutian metaphor I could hardly draw. This speaks to a tremendous arrogance about his character, but while arrogance may be a character flaw, and may well underlay many of the complaints I have of his performance, it of itself can hardly be termed a policy position.

Corporatism

There are many issues peripherally related to the economy, however, that we can touch on. The Solyndra scandal (and the related green subsidy bankruptcies) exist on the fairly standard end of things where the government explicitly picks winners as has been done throughout the post-war era (and even before then, as well). Still, the hallowed tradition of robbing hardworking Americans to hand out money to politically favored buddies was unacceptable when Bush did it and remains unacceptable when Obama does it.

Also in this category are the GM bailout and Chevy Volt, covered in Rule of Law, and the stimulus, covered in Spending.

The Rule of Law

The GM bankruptcy is a fairly complicated subject, but what is unambiguous is that the GM bondholders-- people who had a contract with the company-- were pushed to the back of the line not on the basis of longstanding law and tradition, but on the basis of Mr. Obama's say-so to support the more politically influential unions. Note that Mr. Obama was on the record in his campaign claiming that he would fight for a pair of laws to prohibit executive bonuses in bankruptcy and to formally prioritize wages in bankruptcy proceedings. While I would not have supported either of those measures, the fact that he has abandoned both of them in favor of extra-legal means of supporting only the most politically connected of workers strikes me as exceedingly callous.

The GM bailout, however, is not complicated. Communism is government ownership of "the means of production". In 2009, the government, under Mr. Obama, purchased 61%, a controlling share, of a formerly private company. Mr. Obama also used government money to purchase large voting interests in another car company and two banks. These actions would have been appropriate actions for a private group like Bain Capital. These actions were most emphatically not appropriate for the government of a free nation, founded on the idea of equal protection under the law.

Mr. Obama violated the constitution by appointing members of the NLRB without the consent of the Senate while the chamber was still in session.

Mr. Obama unilaterally decided to simply stop enforcing chunks of our immigration law for people who look good on re-election ads. He hasn't even tried to pass a law reforming our broken immigration system (which would be a good thing) and he certainly hasn't slowed down the overall pace of deportation (see below). This policy, standing as it does all by itself, is our President punching holes in the law for the sake of election-time optics.

Mr. Obama illegally initiated a shooting war in Libya that led to the deaths of four Americans.

The President offered to pay the fines of Lockheed Martin for violating labor laws at his request.

Mr. Obama ordered the extrajudicial killing of two American citizens.

Foreign Policy

Obama's foreign policy failures are particularly disappointing because this is the area where a President, as head of state and commander in chief, has the most legitimate power.

It isn't as though Mr. Obama came into office without ideas. Indeed, he made a number of fairly excellent promises in 2008, including building an international group to help resettle Iraqi refugees, Ending the Cold War nuclear "hair-trigger" policies, ending trade restrictions on medication, recognizing the Armenian genocide, as well as more grandiose ambitions like promoting Mexican economic development and giving an annual "state of the world" address (thus demonstrating that he considers the phrase "imperial presidency" to be a recommendation, not a criticism). If you clicked on any of these links, you will note that none of them happened.

I do not blame Mr. Obama for the fact that North Korea, Cuba, Russia, Palestine, Syria, Iran, and possibly Egypt are filled with human misery, since he is only the President of our country and it is silly to judge a president by the internal actions of foreign nations. We are not, after all, the policemen of the world.

I do not blame him for the Euro crisis, since Europe is, at least nominally, not a bunch of whiny children incapable of managing their own affairs. See below, however, for completely inappropriate electioneering.

I do blame him for the illegal war in Libya that cost the lives of four Americans.

I commend Mr. Obama for mostly sticking to the Iraq pullout timetable agreed to by his predecessor.

I will condemn the president for horrific inconsistency abroad. We invaded Libya, but ignored Syria, Sudan, and Honduras. He supported the Arab Spring in Egypt and Tunisia but ignored it in Bahrain and Syria, as well as the Iranian protesters the year before.

Libya

We went to war with Libya on bullshit pretenses. The President conducted the war so illegally that even the New York Times complained (once, and then they shut up and got back with the program). Mr. Obama did not even have, as Bush did, a solid reason that happened to be incorrect (Iraqi WMDs). Then, four Americans died. Mr. Obama's response to these deaths was to lie repeatedly about the circumstances surrounding them.

Unacceptable.

Mexicans

Under President Obama, America has become such an undesirable place to live that even illegal Mexicans aren't coming any more. Seriously, though, the heart of American Exceptionalism and the American economic miracle of the last three hundred years has been immigration, and Barack Obama has been so effective at kicking out people who want to become contributors to the American dream that Mexicans are simply giving up.

This will impoverish our culture and make our economy more brittle.

Inappropriate electioneering

If you recall, in 2008 Mr. Obama went around the world as part of his campaign for a bunch of speeches, including a fairly over the top one in front of the Brandenburg Gates.

It seems that this year he has done something similar. He went to Russia and asked President Medvedev to wait until after the election-- when he would no longer be accountable to the will of America-- to sign a missile defense agreement. Obama has pressured European leaders to keep Greece in the Eurozone until after his election. He has reportedly offered Israel military hardware (not exceptional) in exchange for holding off an Iranian attack until after his election (exceptional). The president requested that a large government contractor not hand out legally required layoff notices until after the election, and even offered to pay any fines incurred (above, in Rule of Law). The president, while it is often claimed that he killed the Keystone pipeline, really just deferred approval until after the election so that he did not have to make a public choice between union jobs and the environment.

Every single one of these is completely inappropriate behavior in a person who holds a position of public trust and demonstrates that Obama considers his own political power to be more important than the stability of the EU, popular approval of major defense agreements, fairly substantial worker protections, multi-million dollar energy deals and/or their environmental impact, and Israel's national defense policy.

Spending

The President has not had a single year in which the deficit was not greater than any year prior to his administration. The President has not had a single year in which the deficit was less than one trillion dollars. Mr. Obama personally presided over 37% of the current sixteen trillion dollar US deficit, a figure which has grown almost continuously since the Roosevelt Administration.

Mr. Obama has no plan to end the deficits, and does not project that the annual deficit will fall under half a trillion dollars per year for any time in the next ten years.

Mr. Obama promised a net spending cut. He did not deliver.

Mr. Obama created a respected and bipartisan commission to reduce the deficit that was headed by two reasonable and widely supported men who produced a moderate, sensible proposal supported by congress. Mr. Obama ignored the report.

When he tried his own hand at crafting a budget, the plans were so unreasonable that they were unanimously rejected two years in a row.

At best Mr. Obama's performance in this area could be rated as clownish. However, I, personally, as an American taxpayer, am on the hook for $141,000, of which $45,000 was added in the last four years. 

I make less than $45,000 per year.

Stimulus

I have forgotten most of this, except that it was damned expensive. Also I am getting tired. Here are some links

Space

In the long run, the most important thing for our species is to expand into other planets. That way, when the earth experiences the next major extinction level event (it would be the sixth such in the billion year history of life), humanity can survive. 

The most important thing an American president can to to foster space travel is to open space up to private commercial ventures. 

With the retirement of the shuttle program, the world has seen the first birth a private space industry. Mr. Obama has not regulated this industry into oblivion.

Kudos to you, Mr. President.

Homosexuals

Our president spent three of his first four years in office openly denying that he believed homosexuals deserved to be treated equally under the law. He changed his mind right after a key vote to prohibit gay marriage in North Carolina, exactly one day after it could have helped anyone. He has still made no substantive progress towards even those minor anti-discrimination measures he promised in the election. He refused to prohibit employment discrimination against homosexuals. He refused to encourage states to treat homosexual families on equal ground as heterosexual families. He refused to try repealing DOMA. He permitted gays to serve in the military, which was hailed as great and wonderful, but the truth is that military service is a duty, not a benefit of citizenship. Obama has required homosexuals to make all the sacrifices of every other citizen, but done not one single thing to bring them the equal benefit to raise a family. 

I am forced to conclude on this issue that his words are empty. Any promises he makes respecting the rights of Americans to love and marry are subordinate to his lust for political power. What a two-faced scumbag.

Transparency

Obama promised he would:

Terror at home and abroad

Bin Laden is dead. Yay! I am sure that no other American could possibly have made the gutsy call to have a crack team of special forces fly across the planet to shoot him in the face while sitting in an air conditioned room in a comfy chair watching the action on a television. Credit where credit is due and all.

Obama has neither removed nor reformed the DHS, the PATRIOT act, or the clownish TSA, which are perhaps the three most visible instances of "the terrorists winning" by blowing up our civil liberties.

Obama has not closed down the Guantanamo bay facility, he has not ended the practice of secret arrests, nor has he shut down any secret prisons. He has not ended indefinite detention without trial.

Gunwalking

On the face of it, it looks like a typical case of government incompetence with the unfortunate addition of a body count. Then you realize that the administration is so intent on hiding what happened that the Attorney General drew a contempt vote, and the administration still has not addressed the issue.

A CNN primer on how the ATF handed out weapons to Mexican cartels that were used to kill hundreds of people.

At least when Reagan pulled Iran-Contra, he saved the lives of some US citizens. All Eric Holder managed to do was get a bunch of Mexicans and Americans killed.

Drugs

Barack Obama, who has publicly confessed to smoking marijuana, actively pursues incarceration for people who smoke marijuana. When he cannot get states to enforce the prohibition that he, himself, has violated, he sends federal agents to imprison people.

America imprisons more people than any other nation in the world. Half of all federal prisoners are there on drug-related charges.

President Obama, despite the enthusiastic endorsements from Cheech and Chong, and his own admitted drug use, believes that A) it is right and appropriate to send armed paramilitaries to destroy people's lives and B) (I presume) it would be a bad thing if armed paramilitaries broke down his door and locked him in a cage for five years. 

Everyone who supports the American War on Drugs is a bad person who enjoys causing suffering. However, those people, like the President, who actively cause said suffering while admitting to have done the very same things are monsters.

The murder of two American citizens

I can't really say much about this without becoming completely unhinged, so:

Conclusion

Taken in whole, I cannot in good conscience vote for Barack Obama for President. Considering the last part alone, I cannot respect any person who does vote for Barack Obama.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Good news, bad news

The good news is here.

The bad news is also up there, bolded:
"You are 8 times more likely to be killed by a police officer than by a terrorist".
People have asked me why I worry so much about big government when there are terrorists out there who want to kill us all. I happen to think I just have my priorities straight.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Happy Wednesday!

I can't leave you with a sad story as my only Happy Wednesday post, so here is something from the Onion that is 100% true.

I can personally attest to this in my life:

  • I am woken up in the morning (8AM) by an alarm. My eyes still closed I zombie walk across the room to my telephone, which is a palm sized box dominated almost completely by a screen, open my eyes, and hit the dismiss button (an area on the screen, not an actual button) and the alarm goes off. 
  • I get dressed, say farewell to the co-bloggers, and walk to work. On the walk to work I pull out my telephone (the one that is almost entirely screen), poke at the touchscreen to see the BBC headlines of the morning and check any email. By the time I get to work I have been awake thirty minutes and spent two of them looking at a screen. Let's round that to zero.
  • I get to work and turn out the power to the computer monitor. I then spend the entire day looking at the screen of my computer, the screen of the mapping computer, or over a co-worker's shoulder at their screens when we work collaboratively. By lunch time I have been awake three hours and spent two and a half looking at screens.
  • I take a lunch break of about thirty minutes every day. I walk to Subway (or sometimes the local hamburger stand) and pull out my telephone. I put it away to order, and then spend the rest of lunch reading a book on my telephone screen. Awake three and a half hours and spent three hours looking at screens.
  • I go back to work and look at screens. I leave at 5:30 (later recently since we have been really busy, but let's say 5:30 for convenience). Awake nine and a half hours, looking at screens for nine hours.
  • I then walk home (twenty minutes), feed and litter-scoop the co-bloggers and change out of work clothes (ten minutes) and plop down in front of the computer by 6 PM. Awake for ten hours, looking at screens for nine hours.
  • Let us assume that A) I cook, which I do about twice a month, B) I go to sleep at a reasonable hour, like 11 and C) the co-bloggers are restless and demand that I exhaust them. I hate cooking and absolutely refuse to make anything that requires more than 10 minutes effort on my part. Cats are sprinters, and now that they have each other to play with all day and are well acclimated to the apartment, typically top out at twenty intense minutes of chasing string, balls and lasers. By bedtime I have been awake for fifteen hours, of which thirteen and a half (conservatively) is spent staring at screens. 
That is exactly 90% of the day spent staring at glowing rectangular boxes.

This is related:


This is not:

Story Time from a dictatorship!

Here is a story about a minor candidate for the presidency of some blighted dictatorship who was arrested for protesting their exclusion from the electoral process. This fellow is, apparently, pretty obscure, but also considered a direct threat to the political power of the current president.

Just a reminder that there are places in this world where the right to peacefully protest-- let alone the right to get on the ballot with equal footing as the ruling party-- is nothing but a fantasy.

Since it is Happy Wednesday, I will leave you with a positive thought: There are healthy, functioning democracies in the West that the oppressed people of nations like these can look as models to when they decide they are fed up with their wealthy, autocratic oppressors.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

A thought-- a terrible thought

Not watching the debate because I don't hate fun. But I had a thought:

Since this is a townhall format, they (whoever "they" is) should put in plants and schedule some genuinely inappropriate questions to see how the candidates react to unexpected occurances.

They should lead with a standard dumb question to get everyone relaxed. "Do you support politics as usual?" or some other inane BS.

They should then move to an ambiguous question. I recommend "What are you going to do about the homosexuals?" With the right delivery, that question could be taken either as a poorly worded but legitimate inquiry or as a homophobic outburst.

Once both candidates have had a chance to approach this uncertainty, the next question should be "The Jews are destroying this country," exclaimed by the most disreputable looking character they can find. The moderator will spend the next few minutes insisting that A) a question was asked and B) that the candidates are doing something wrong by not answering the question.

They should then move on to a completely legitimate question on a topic that neither candidate has prepared for. Something about the status of Indian reservations, Puerto Rican statehood, or the direct election of Senators, as examples. Both candidates will be aware of the issue, but seeing how they take a side in a legitimate controversy, especially after being shaken in the previous two questions, would be interesting.

*fantasy* Then they should bring in "special guest" Gary Johnson to stand and answer questions alongside the candidates *end fantasy*

Even better idea: They should then bring out "special guest" Some Random Person, no one famous and no one too articulate, to set up a third podium and answer questions alongside the two candidates. Sometimes he goes first: Do the candidates agree with him? how do they disagree? Sometimes he goes last: If the candidates are given the option to rebut, do they take it? Random Person would, of course, be a plant, with a combination of terrible and brilliant lines.

Then Obama should be asked, "don't you just hate Romney because he is a Mormon" and Romney should be asked "Don't you just hate Obama because he is black".

Then they should be punched in the face because, as politicians, they deserve it. Also, I think it would be interesting to see how they react to getting suddenly punched in the face. Do they fight back? Do they play it off? I assume they get at least a bit irked, especially after this setup, so how do the candidates get angry?

Friday, October 12, 2012

Nobel Peace Prize

People are saying that the EU did not deserve the Nobel Peace Prize.

I would have them consider that Europe has been engaged in gigantic wars since the collapse of the Roman Empire, including such grandly named conflicts as

  • The Hundred Years War
  • The Eighty Years War
  • The Thirty Years War
  • The Seven Years War
  • The Polish-Lithuanian Deluge
  • World War 1
  • World War 2
And of course, who could forget
  • The Napoleonic Invasion of Europe
  • The Crimean War
  • The War of Portuguese Independence
  • The Franco-Prussian War
  • The Austro-Prussian War
  • The Kalmar War
  • The Schlieshwig War
Conflicts between European nations have led to some of the most terrible wars in history.

Since the formation of the EEC, and then the EU, no member state has gone to war with another, and the European Continent has been, with the exception of Yugoslavia, kept free from open warfare. Even today open hostility as a result of the EU debt crisis is completely unthinkable, and most European nations have grown so peacefully indolent that the military capacity to wage a major war exists on the continent only in the form of US and Russian bases.

The Nobel Peace Prize was founded to acclaim the person or group who has "done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses."

The Peace Prize committee has done some tremendously silly things, but this was not one of them.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

A new Star Wars revelation

You wouldn't think that there was much new to be said about Star Wars, but I found one:

The vast majority of the Star Wars universe, including Luke, was illiterate, and, at best, only functionally literate. This helps explain the rise of the empire.

On another note, I can see the light at the end of the tunnel with regards to real life problems, but that train won't pass by until next week. I do have some election related posts planned.