Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

Indiana, I Didn’t Know

Thursday, October 23rd, 2008

Look at that map. That map looks very, excitedly strange! It all due to the “Big Ten Battleground Poll,” a poll conducted by the University of Illinois, the University of Iowa, Michigan State University, the University of Michigan, Northwestern University, The Ohio State University, Pennsylvania State University and the University of Wisconsin over October 19-22. The results are somewhat unbelievable. They give Obama a 10 point lead in Indiana, which is a huge swing. It is enough of a swing to turn the average of polls (which is what the above map is based on) for Indiana in to the tossup category. The Ohio numbers (Obama +12) move the avergae to Obama+6, which is into the leaning category. The detailed results, which I had to take a look at are here. Obama may well need to revise his plan to throw some of that September $150millon at Georgia, South Carolina, North Dakota and Arizona to include Indiana.

I’ve pretty much had it with voters in Ohio, so I was and may continue to still write off Ohio as a lost cause. I think the more sure path to an Obama victory lies through Virgina and North Carolina. While this poll does not update the numbers for those two states, any chance of a swing in Indiana bodes very well for demographically the more Obama friendly North Carolina, which is my big call, based more on hope than on numbers at this point.

Better than the Daily Show

Sunday, October 19th, 2008

These videos from the Alfred E. Smith Memorial Dinner have been making their rounds, and I think they are better than the daily show. There has been some debate as to which, the Obama or McCain, speech is better. I think the Obama speech is better, but don’t judge the McCain speech until you get to the end.

No Bailout

Wednesday, September 24th, 2008

I am not in support of a bailout of any kind. I also live in an ivory tower when it comes to economics, and a short, unexperienced or well taught one at that. I am confused somewhat by the push for a bailout. Why am I confused? Well, on the one hand, I can see where the people who are going to get free money want it, and I can even see how the republicans, who generally are against free money for people, are ready and willing to give free money to banks. I understand that Bush is once again saying, “my way or the highway.” Why wouldn’t he? it has worked every other time he’s done that. That stuff is not confusing.

What is confusing is the economic reasoning for a bailout. The entire point of capitalism is that it is the best known method for increasing the standard of living of a society. It does this by selecting ideas that are winners and ideas that are losers by rewarding people who have good ideas, and making people who try to long on bad ideas go broke. Of course, one would hope people with bad ideas get the picture before they go broke, but sometimes they don’t. This idea is called Creative Destruction. I just recently finished Alan Greenspan‘s book, The Age of Turbulence, which stated the importance of this in no uncertain terms. It also stated that as you increase socialism and other safety nets to insulate people from risk, creative destruction occurs less often and the ability of the capitalist system to increase the standard of living decreases.

All that is happening here is creative destruction. Some firms, are going to go out of business. They are going to go out of business because they had some bad ideas and they ran to far with them. There is nothing wrong with these firms going under. They actually increase the standard of living in the long run by going away. Of course, not all firms will fail completely, some will merge and what not, and be able to survive. This is because they did not run as far with or have as bad of an idea as the ones who did fail. They will, however, suffer pain, as a result of the bad risks they took. Everyone who took bad risks will suffer pain, and as a result people will not take these same bad risks again. That’s how its all supposed to work. That’s clearly an ivory tower way of thinking.

But what about the credit market? When firms go out of business it is usually because there is a glut of supply, too many firms are in the market, producing too many goods. This was in fact the problem a year or two ago (or more). There were too many people willing to lend money and not enough people to which to lend money. To solve this they expanded the pool of people they to whom they were willing to lend. Clearly that was a bad idea, and the market is telling everyone who did this that it was a really bad idea, and it is telling them this in a big way. It seems obvious now that it was a bad idea, but we only know that because of the market.

The problem now is that there isn’t enough credit. People can’t get loans. There is a lack of supply, because in effect all the firms who took bad risks can’t loan money, so they are no longer in the market. The call for a bailout is grounded in the idea that we need these firms to re-enter the market so that supply will increase, and people will be able to get loans. I agree that we need more firms in the credit market, or at least that we need to increase the supply of credit. But why do we need these firms? Firms are in the end just people. These people have proven themselves unfit to be in a credit market; that is they have bad ideas about how to make money in the credit market. We should not help them to re-enter a market that they so clearly have failed at.

But how do we increase the supply of credit without them? There is no reason why new firms won’t stream in to the credit market now that there is a shortage. These new firms will need promises to their investors that they won’t repeat the mistakes that were made. They will need to not take as many risks. Investors, who are reeling from taking too much risk will flock to these new firms. This will provide them with the capitol they need to provide the loans, for which people are apparently clamoring. These new firms will flourish with their new ideas, and the old firms will die; creative destruction. As I said before, die is a simplification, some old firms may survive by doing the same thing the new firms are doing. However, if they can’t survive that way, we should not help them, just let a new firm take their place. This whole thing will take time, I don’t know much, but I bet that we can have new firms in the credit market in 2-3 quarters.

What do we do for the next 2-3 quarters? Well, it won’t be easy. There is a shortage of credit, and so people who need credit will have to stand in long lines, and accept higher interest rates (pay more for it).

Who will they borrow money from? Anyone who will lend money of course, be it small banks who see a profitable new opportunity to expand their business, or the vestiges of the old firms still limping along. There is also the federal reserve of course, they are the lender of last resort. They always have money to lend (that’s the point). In the past, large banks have been their customers, but there is no reason why they can’t make loans, at appropriate rates, to smaller customers, or anyone really. Lastly, don’t forget overseas investors.

The only real problem is that there needs to be capitol, money to lend. There is an easy way to generate capitol; raise interest rates until people who do have money are willing to lend it. There should be no free money from the government. There is no reason to think that the only people who have money are the government. There is plenty of money in the country, and even more in the world. If we want people to loan it to us so we can buy houses, we need to provide them with an attractive interest rate. When we do that we’ll get the money, and we can loan it out, to anyone who wants the money badly enough to pay for it. As time wears on the risk premium that is currently going to be required will diminish and things will return to normal. Change leads to normalcy. We need to change the big names in banking, if we just sit tight, this will happen for us. If we meddle, we’ll loose in the long run.

What might really happen? From what I’ve read, which is only a little, they are considering a type of reverse auction where the banks will all place bids. What they are actually bidding in is too complex for me right now, but the way it works out is that the banks who are better off will be able to off the government a lower bid. The lowest bid wins, and every bidder may make trades to the government at that rate. Anyone who can afford that rate, who can avoid bankruptcy by trading some amount at that rate will survive, and those who can’t still go out of business. As you can tell, Bush did not come up with this plan, which is being called his. This plan is reasonable, in that those who took the worst risks still get creatively destroyed. It lesses the short term pain, and the cost of some, intangible amount of long term prosperity. The risk to reward trade off is probably there in this plan, especially since who knows how much prosperity, how far in the future we’re talking about.

So am I for the plan? Well, I still think we should do nothing, but what they plan to do is not brain dead. What the democrats are pushing for, more regulation would be bad. It all sounds good, but markets don’t like regulation. I don’t much care how much CEO’s get paid. As the paper pointed out to day, they are losing a lot of money right now, if you count stock. If you put a cap on how much you can pay them you could end up with a shortage of qualified CEOs. One may argue we already have that, in which case we clearly need to pay more to get the actual good ones, not less. What we really need is a populace who is educated enough to participate in the credit market on both the lender and borrower sides. Until we have that, the only sensible regulation, increased transparency, is worthless. This is roughly the same remorseless conclusion that I came to in my last econ rambling. What I want to see then, are some educational riders on this bill. Assuming the risks the taxpayers are taking on comes up good and we win big. Lets require all that money we made go to education.

Maybe someday soon I’ll have time to see what Greg Mankiew thinks of all this, but I’ve been too busy at work to keep abreast of his position.

Palin’s Speech

Friday, September 5th, 2008

I was working on configuring my DVR to work with my current cable setup on Wednesday night and so I saw about five minutes of GOP VP nominee Sarah Palin’s speech, off and on as I labored to get things working (it is Linux after all). Based on the little that I saw, I have two things to say. First, she did not write that speech (or even have a hand in writing it), and that was obvious. Second, when she debates Joe Biden it will be over for her. It will be like if the internet is a dump truck and it runs over her. She was so incorrectly informed on so many issues; it was ridiculous. How many issues can you show you are misinformed on in five minutes? It was an impressive feat of ignorance.

On the TV front, it is working, but the cable setup is wonky. There are only 19 channels on the analog service :-( and I don’t yet have a cable box. Also, the signal strength coming off the wire is pitiful. I put it into a 4 way splitter and attenuated things to the point where I couldn’t get > 65% HD signal strength. With a two way splitter I get 75%, which works. I used to get 99% with a 4 way at my old place. Looks like I’ll be buying an amplified splitter, and getting a cable box. Hopefully it will be the same easy to control model as my last cable box, which, had a standard, open serial port on the back for that purpose.

Obama & Biden

Thursday, August 28th, 2008

I haven’t had a political post, or any post at all for that matter, in a while. I’ve been busy moving, but I found a bit of an update on the whole Obama voting for the FISA bill thing. He did actually respond to the members of the Get FISA Right group, the by far largest group on his social networking site. He actually did this almost 2 months ago, I just missed it. The summary is what you would expect to hear from someone in his position. It espouses the idea that it is a good compromise, that he wouldn’t have drafted the legislation, and that it is important for us to remain activists despite that he’s not listening to us this time. Its basically a lot of pandering, don’t be mad at me and not vote bullshit, but it’s at least somewhat of an improvement over the Bush administration, in that he does actually respond as though he did actually hear us.

Of course, up until he jumped the FISA ship I was hopeful that things would improve by much more than that episode reveals Obama is willing to go. I have since been in a bit of a political funk. It’s been a good time to be in a political funk since not much has been going on anyways. Suffice it to say I have not been watching the convention. I have only one thought on the matter of party unity that is so central to goals of the convention. That idea is to have Hillary Clinton be the one to lay out a good bit of the party platform. Mind you, this is not her platform, but the party platform – over which Obama has much control. I think that all the Hillary-ites, who are so mad, will likely be appeased if it appears that she still has a large say in the party platform (which may well be true). It seems the best way to make it appear that way is to have her say it. Essentially, Obama’s words, filtered through the party, coming out of her mouth. I think that would work much better than repeated calls for unity, which can ring empty.

Finally, I suppose I’ll say a bit about Joe Biden for Vice-President. Of the field of however many candidates there were last fall my three favorites (based on debate coverage alone) were Biden, Dodd, and Obama. I apparently didn’t blog about this, but many of you may have heard me say I liked them. I still like Biden, whose signature campaign idea was the breakup of Iraq into three countries; I still think that may prove to be the best plan. I have since learned that he is not on the right side of the Net Neutrality Debate. I think, however, that he may actually have less power over the way that debate goes as Vice-President than he would as an actual senator. Obama, and the FCC appear to be on the good side, so there is not as much to worry about there as there was in the recent past. Biden did vote to get FISA Right, which is a very large plus for me. I don’t know how/if he helps the electoral votes number game, but I’m happy to have him on the ticket.

The Game is Up: Americans Loose

Wednesday, July 9th, 2008

No, were not trying to play soccer, we’re trying to live normal lives without having our rights infringed, but we can’t, not anymore. The not-at-all a compromise FISA amendment passed the senate today by 69-28. Many thanks to the 28 senators who voted no, including:

  • Hilary Clinton (D-NY)
  • Chris Dodd (D-CT)
  • Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV)
  • Russ Feingold (D-WI)
  • Joe Biden (D-DE)
  • and one of my senators, whom I did write too on the issue, John Kerry (D-MA)

Of course, senator Ted Kendey, the only currently sitting senator whom I’ve personally voted for did not vote due to his medical problems. And of course, no thanks at all to Obama for throwing all 22,893 of his most loyal supporters under the bus. I am jaded enough to believe that if Senator Clinton was the party nominee she and Obama would be on opposites sides of this issue than they are with this vote. As of yesterday, “Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, [had] not made up her mind on the controversial measure.” It’s almost as if she is trying to say I told you so, but had she actually told me so, as Obama did, then things might have been different. Of course, being lied to never leaves a good taste in one’s mouth. I’m now quite glad I never ponied up cash for the Obama campaign, I certainly would want my money back if I had, and I certainly won’t contribute now.

Senate to the Rescue?

Tuesday, June 24th, 2008

Now that the house has passed the disastrous Protect America Act/FISA replacment “compromise” bill, it goes back to the senate, where senator Feingold has promised to filibuster it. Of coruse, the senate already passed the origional replacment bill, so I don’t hold out much hope that they will stop it this time around. Exspecially with Senator Obama flip flopping to the wrong side of the issue. This excerpt from an interview by Democracy Now with Senator Feingold shows that at least someone has got it right:

AMY GOODMAN: Who do you feel is in charge right now? Is it the Democrats or the Republicans?

SEN. RUSS FEINGOLD: Well, you know, on the domestic issues, the Democrats are doing pretty well, except for when we run into a filibuster. So we have been able to get some achievements. But whenever you come up against one of these national security issues, the President and the fear of Democrats of standing up to the President and the Vice President still have the trump card, and they seem to always win, on whether it be the Iraq issue or the Constitution or the civil liberties issues, because Democrats are still afraid to stand up and say, “Look, we know you’re using fear as a tactic, and we’re not afraid of it.” But unfortunately, they still have the trump card, despite the very low popularity of the President and the fact that it’s a lame-duck administration.

AMY GOODMAN: Senator Feingold, will you filibuster this bill?

SEN. RUSS FEINGOLD: We are going to resist this bill. We are going to make sure that the procedural votes are gone through. In other words, a filibuster is requiring sixty votes to proceed to the bill, sixty votes to get cloture on the legislation. We will also—Senator Dodd and I and others will be taking some time to talk about this on the floor. We’re not just going to let it be rubberstamped.

AMY GOODMAN: Would you filibuster, though?

SEN. RUSS FEINGOLD: That’s what I just described.

AMY GOODMAN: Senator Barack Obama last year said that he was opposed to granting retroactive immunity to the telecoms, but he has now indicated support for the FISA deal. Your thoughts?

SEN. RUSS FEINGOLD: Wrong vote. Regrettable. Many Democrats will do this. We should be standing up for the Constitution. When President Obama is president, he will, I’m sure, work to fix some of this, but it’s going to be a lot easier to prevent it now than to try to fix it later.

I’m disappointed with Obama on this. It probably won’t come back to bite him because anyone who cares about this issue doesn’t really have any other choice to begin with. I realize that he needs to “sprint to the right” to pick up the votes of the mainstream Americans, who for some reason don’t want their rights to be protected as much as they want their bodies/lives to be protected. It’s still sad to see how willing he is to throw us all under the bus to accomplish this. Of coruse, McCain and Hillary don’t offer anything better, they voted wrong, or not at all last time.

Telecom Immunity Up For Debate Again

Thursday, June 19th, 2008

I can’t quote or link to the AP story (There is now a story I can link to over at Arstechnica on the new compromise.), but the Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives have agreed upon a compromised Protect America ActFISA replacement bill that includes telecom immunity. This ends 4 months in which the House did nothing instead of doing a bad thing. They have not yet passed this bill, so those outside of the committee that drafted compromise may still not pass it. There can be no compromise on telecom immunity for the reasons I outlined before.

The other big part of the compromise is that the government may not invoke war powers or other authorities to supersede surveillance powers in the future. Of course, they are already bared from doing this, hence the lawsuits they have incurred by doing it. Who is to say that yet another law against it will stop them in the future. You know what would stop them? If the people/companies in a position to enable the surveillance were so frightened of the repercussions for violating the law that they refused to help! I wonder how we could cause them to shake in their boots so? Oh maybe we could not provide them immunity from past actions, and make them pay for what they did. That way, next time they will know not to do it. End result, liberty is preserved; those who seek to destroy it, in this case the Bush Administration, are thwarted. Liberty must be protected against all enemies, not just the ones with guns.

Update: They passed it, see the ars story here. All I can say is fuck you Nancy Pelosi (and the other 104 democrats who voted for the bill), apologies and comparing it to an even worse bill don’t protect my liberties. Props go out to Denis Kucinich and Mike Capuano (my congressman) who did not vote for the bill. With everything else that happened this weekend I’m so disillusioned right now I can’t even comprehend it.

On Being a Millennial

Tuesday, June 3rd, 2008

Tonight’s conclusion of the democratic primary season really got me thinking about some of the things that I read with regard to the ongoing controversy over Robert Lanham’s Generation Slap article. Can’t you just hear me wanting to say Victory by Obama, but not being able to actually say it because we’re only really half way there. I still think we can’t really rest until HRC either concedes or takes the VP spot. This “Clinton acknowledges delegate math” subtitle really doesn’t calm the nerves. But why am I so nervous? Why does this matter so much? Why do I fear the personal disillusionment a Clinton victory would have caused me?

I first stumbled upon this whole debate two weeks ago from a digg link to this seemingly copycat and less in-depth post. I was reading some more about it today because Tim’s blog brought up the topic and linked to a really well done rebuttal. The rebuttal really got me thinking, especially with the political aspects he brought up. I’m not one to really competently argue music culture with anyone educated on the subject, which was another aspect he hit on. But I’m highly invested in politics, which has surprised even myself. This is the bit I’ve been reflecting on:

[Generation X] got all the cool traits! Disaffection! Nihilism! Cynicism! Ironic distance! People just keep calling us idealistic….

As we grow up, it continues. According to the Washington Post, we’re “collegial.” And “Millennials, more than their elders, believe that U.S. political institutions will deal effectively with concerns the nation will face in the future.” We’re “sociable, optimistic, talented, well-educated, collaborative, open-minded, influential, and achievement oriented…”

Our optimism is every bit as ignorant as [Generation X’s] cynicism is lazy….

…here’s the thing about our starry-eyed good faith in the system: We might very well be the first generation to elect a black president. That’s thrilling.

Alex Pareene

This is thrilling. What really struck me, and reinforced things enough to write about it is that this is effectively the same sort of thing that Tom Brokaw said tonight while discussing race, youth, Obama, and tonight’s place in political history. I will assert that I do believe that government institutions will, by implementing well designed and thought out policies, solve the problems facing my generation. Why do I think that? Maybe because if it doesn’t then we’re all screwed, that’s sort of a proof by contradiction for you. On the positive side the resounding and successful defeat of the gas tax holiday idea is a big, recent sign that governments can make correct policy decisions for the right reasons.

It took someone else to say it for me to realize it, exactly how much idealism drives my motivations. This is why I am a democrat despite the fact that I’m not convinced that their solutions are the right ones. This is why, I, and the vast majority of my generation support Obama, who promises to deliver a reintroduction of reason, honesty, and the big Millennial thing – openness – to government. Openness is the ground work for debate that works to provide solutions. The open source movement and other open/transparent entities have shown what you can do with that kind of groundwork in place.

The interplay between the discussion and the real world affirming events have me really embracing and feeling a connection to my generation, which has not been a common thing for me. The feeling is not so much as a coalescing in response to attack, but positive thing. When I read the initial article I wasn’t even sure if I was being attacked. As I am among the eldest of the Millennials I’ve never been sure which side of the blurry line I fall on. This discussion has done much to clarify that for me.

The personal disillusionment avoided by the presumptive selection of Obama as the democratic presidential candidate is so affirming because he alone, of the three, offer this open and transparent path. Without that path — with the, as Jon Stewart put it last night, “willful deception” of Bush; the blatant, trivial, and outright lies for Clinton; or the complete disregard for once held upstanding principles of McCain — the process I am counting on to solve our problems does not work. If we can’t solve our problems through government then I think disillusionment is the result, and so now that we have a good choice, we must make that choice in November!

Steve from the DNC

Friday, May 30th, 2008

I just had a nice short chat with Steve from the DNC. He said, ” we are going to win in November by running the largest grassroots campaign we’ve ever seen.” Upon hearing that I smiled, which, he commented, was not a Republican Smile. I told him that it indeed was not and that it sounded like a good idea. He then went on to hand me a clipboard with one name on it. Clearly it was to sign up to give money and time to the DNC. I managed to get out without signing my name to it, without much trouble. I probably would have at the time, but it now occurs to me that I’m glad I didn’t just in case the DNC makes the fatal mistake of going with Hillary. I certainly wouldn’t make a very good volunteer for her campaign. Anyways, he was really nice. He told me a short anecdote about how someone in Roslindale used the presence of an American flag on his property to imply that he didn’t want to talk to Steve. I told him that our little flag, which prompted the story, didn’t mean that and that we were a house of recently college graduated committed democrats.