Friday, October 31, 2008

Culture Shock

I like checking out The Young Turks on YouTube, mainly for the humorous political commentary, but the video of Iranian police women was simply surreal to watch.

Christian charity doesn't want money from roleplayers

Seriously. This kind of crap never ceases to amaze me.

The Gen Con Live Auction last August was originally supposed to be sponsored by the Children’s Christian Fund, the favorite charity of Gary Gygax, co-creator of Dungeons and Dragons. It’s safe to assume that Gary probably donated a fair amount to the charity, himself.

So it’s rather unfortunate to read that CCF withdrew from sponsoring the auction, and therefore the receiving of the proceeds, when they discovered that some of the items to be sold were D&D material. I prefer to think of it as vast ignorance rather than vast stupidity, but I’m waiting to hear a response from CCF.


Here is the link to Gen Con & Origins Charity Auctions page, which shows that they sent the $17,000+ to the Fisher House Foundation instead. (The Fisher House Foundation donates "comfort homes," built on the grounds of major military and VA medical centers. These homes enable family members to be close to a loved one at the most stressful times - during the hospitalization for an unexpected illness, disease, or injury.)

Straight talk


It's a bad sign for McCain when Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Missouri, Montana, North Carolina, North Dakota and Ohio are battleground states. It's even an worse sign when McCain would still lose the election even if he won every single one of them.

The polls have been consistently showing Obama beyond the margin of error in states like Colorado and Virginia, and it becomes increasingly more likely that Pennsylvania not voting for Obama is about as likely as McCain gaining electoral votes from the state of Fantasy Land.
McCain's best case scenario (as of right now) is tilting all of the battleground state polls 7% to McCain's favor. If he can pull that off, then the EV count would be Obama 264 and McCain 269, with whomever wins Nevada being the next president of the United States. If those key states only shift 6%, then Obama gets 291 EVs, compared to McCain's 247.
It's not looking good for that team of mavericky mavericks...

Spreading the Wealth


Just read this in Time:


John McCain thinks Obama's "spread the wealth" comment is a major gotcha. He has locked his chops around this remark like a terrier around Obama's ankle and keeps repeating it. He regards it as self-evidently self-damning. On Meet the Press, McCain ducked Tom Brokaw's invitation to agree or disagree with Sarah Palin that Obama is a "socialist." But a day later McCain brandished a radio interview from seven years ago in which Obama had used the term redistributive change.

Seven years ago, as Brokaw pointed out, McCain himself was
sounding redistributionist, complaining about President Bush's tax cuts. Campaigning against Bush in 2000, he said that "when you ... reach a certain level of comfort, there's nothing wrong with paying somewhat more." Obama has said no more than this, except to set the "level of comfort" at $250,000, which is pretty comfortable.
McCain is free to argue that Obama will raise taxes on people making less than $250,000. My bet is that whoever wins the election will be forced to. But his apparent belief that the very expression "spread the wealth" puts Obama beyond the pale is so out of touch that it's almost touching. It belongs on the golf courses of Arizona, not on the campaign trail.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Barack's Infomercial


I didn't see it on TV, because I was working. I checked it out on YouTube and liked what I saw. I guess I'm a creature of the 21st century, because I don't really watch television but instead spend my time reading and watching things online. The $3+ million dollars spent on TV stations didn't reach me, but I realize that I'm a minority in this country. Lots of folks are glued to the tube, and while they might surf away when they saw him talking, it was there for those willing to watch. More importantly, it was posted to YouTube for those of us who didn't see it on the small screen.

All in all, I liked it. It took all the important policy actions he laid out during the Democratic Convention and framed them in terms that can better grasped by most people. (ie, how it applies to their daily lives.)

Of course, I'm biased. I've been supporting Obama since before that first Democratic caucus on January 3rd... all the way back before last summer when he started laying the groundwork for taking on Hillary Clinton, and all the way back in 2005 when I first saw him on the Charlie Rose interview that Robin saw and encouraged me to watch.

I'm looking forward to casting my vote for Barack Obama again, and I sincerely hope that this man is going to be the next President of the United States. He's not going to solve all our problems, and he has some stances that I don't agree with, but honestly, I'm sick of voting for my fears. I see in Obama the chance for something great... yet the cynic in me understands that if he fails to rise to the challenge, then this country will tear him apart and discard him like the rubbish of previous failed presidents. So it should be. More importantly, I believe the he knows this and that his his ego as well as his sense of compassion will keep him on the path. If not, his party will be destroyed in the midterm elections and he'll be crushed in the next four years. If so, I'll be right there with the pitchforks and burning torches. IMO, if you fail to deliver, then Americans will choose someone else who can. If you ever needed evidence of this, just check out how McCain and the Republican party are doing, given the complete failure of the Republicans to manage the country. Who knows? Perhaps Obama and the Democrats will be in the same position in four to eight years. Then again, perhaps he can provide a better future for my children. Given the alternative that McCain/Palin are offering me, I don't see any reason not to give Barack Obama that chance.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Ballot Lead Calculator

Tired of hearing how candidate X is Y points ahead of candidate Z? Are your curious if that candidate really does have the lead? It turns out that the Ballot Lead Calculator determines what the sampling error is for each poll you enter.

Next time you check out a site like FiveThirtyEight or RealClearPolitics, just plug in the percentages for the two candidates, and then input the sample size. Voila.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Obama's Internship






The nation's most respected news source, The Onion, has just reported that Obama is undertaking a presidential internship in Spain in order to ease concerns about his lack of experience.

I'm sure that letter of recommendation is going to sway the heartland.

Wassup!


I didn't think I could laugh that hard, but then I watched this video.

Palin responds to the Stevens guilty verdict



"I'm confident that Senator Stevens from this point on will do the right thing for the people of Alaska," -- CNN.com



Like, go to jail?

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Photoshop Disasters


Speaking as a Photoshop geek, I'm loving this blog on Photoshop Disasters.


Wednesday, October 22, 2008

I don't think he is a McCain supporter...

In an interview posted online Wednesday, Sarah Palin told Dr. James Dobson of “Focus on the Family” that she is confident God will do “the right thing for America” on Nov. 4.

Dobson asked the vice presidential hopeful if she is concerned about John McCain’s sagging poll numbers, but Palin stressed that she was “not discouraged at all.”

“To me, it motivates us, makes us work that much harder,” she told the influential Christian leader, whose radio show reaches tens of millions of listeners daily. “And it also strengthens my faith because I know at the end of the day putting this in God’s hands, the right thing for America will be done, at the end of the day on Nov. 4.

...

She also thanked her supporters — including Dobson, who said he and his wife were asking “for God’s intervention” on election day — for their prayers of support.

“It is that intercession that is so needed,” she said. “And so greatly appreciated. And I can feel it too, Dr. Dobson. I can feel the power of prayer, and that strength that is provided through our prayer warriors across this nation. And I so appreciate it.”

-- CNN


I've been tracking the election since the first primary vote in Iowa, and I'm fairly certain that McCain is going to need divine intervention to win this race. Unfortunately, the supreme being is backing Obama this election.

How FOX sees the electoral map



McCain is leading in the electoral vote? A simple review of the polls for the past few months would illustrate that McCain is way behind Obama in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Oregon, Iowa, New Mexico, and Virginia of all places.

If you want a good contrast between what most news sites are predicting in comparison to what FOX is trying to spin for McCain, check out the following video and then check out electoral tracking sites and the news sites mentioned in the link.

I'm sure the defense would be that all of those other websites and news organizations are all part of the Vast Left Wing Media Conspiracy...

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Palin can count on five PUMAs to support her

PUMAs live in fantasy land. Given the way the McCain campaign is sputtering along, I'm not surprised to see they are making a campaign stop there.

McCain mistakenly asks for a donation from the Russians

Perhaps they can sign the check, "From Putin, with love."

It's an honest mistake, but hoenstly I love reading news like this. Beyond the fact that it's illegal to accept foreign money for campaign contributions, it's funny to see that the letter went to the Russians... a country McCain has been bashing for months.

Russia's ambassador to the United Nations, Vitaly Churkin, received a
fundraising appeal from the Republican presidential nominee Thursday, spokesman
Ruslan Bakhtin said.

"Dear Friend," begins the 6-page letter to Churkin, asking for up to
$5,000 to defeat Sen. Barack Obama and help McCain "promote freedom and
democracy throughout the world," according to a copy of the letter provided to
The Associated Press by the Russian mission.

McCain has proposed expelling Russia from the Group of Eight world's major
industrial nations and says Russia deserves international condemnation for its
August war with Georgia,

He also has derided President Bush for once saying he got a sense of
Russian leader Vladimir Putin's soul the first time they met and locked eyes in
2001. "I looked in Putin's eyes. I saw three letters: a K, a G and a B," McCain
said last year, referring to Putin's time in the Soviet Union's KGB security
agency.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Colin Powell endorses Obama

Colin Powell was certainly tainted by his being part of the Bush administration, but he is a centrist Republican who is very close friends with John McCain. He has spent the entire election praising both men and refusing to endorse either candidate.

Well, here is an excerpt from the CNN article about his new endorsement of Obama:

(CNN) -- Former Secretary of State Colin Powell announced Sunday that he will be voting for Sen. Barack Obama, citing the Democrat's "ability to inspire" and the "inclusive nature of his campaign."

"I think he is a transformational figure, he is a new generation coming onto the world stage, onto the American stage, and for that reason I'll be voting for Sen. Barack Obama," Powell said on NBC's "Meet the Press."

Powell said he was concerned about what he characterized as a recent negative turn of Republican candidate Sen. John McCain's campaign, such as the campaign's attempts to tie Obama to former 1960s radical Bill Ayers.

"I think that's inappropriate. I understand what politics is about -- I know how you can go after one another, and that's good. But I think this goes too far, and I think it has made the McCain campaign look a little narrow. It's not what the American people are looking for," he said.

Powell, a retired U.S. general and a Republican, was once seen as a possible presidential candidate himself.

Powell said he has some concerns about the direction of the Republican Party, adding that it has "moved more to the right than I would like to see it."

In regard to the financial crisis, which Powell called the candidates' "final exam," Powell said McCain appeared unsteady in dealing with it, while Obama had excelled in handling the situation.

"Obama displayed a steadiness, an intellectual curiosity, a depth of knowledge," Powell said.

"He has met the standard of being a successful president, being an exceptional president," he said.

Mindblowing Setember Presidential Fundraising

Obama raised $51 million in July, $65 million in August, and now a stunning $150 million in September. What's even more amazing is that the average donation that Obama received was under a hundred dollars.

This is why Obama opted out of the public financing system. John McCain is limited to spending $84 million for the entire general election, because who really had no choice but to use the system in order to have a chance in winning.

The Republican National Committee (just like the DNC) can spend money they have raised on McCain, but that amount still is dwarfed by Obama's fundraising, and the RNC needs to spend some of that money to prevent the House and Senate from going completely into the hands of the Democrats.

Things are looking very very good... however there is still sixteen days left in the election, and never underestimate the capacity of the Democrats to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory...

Saturday, October 18, 2008

FactCheck.org on ACORN

So, what does FactCheck.org have to say about ACORN?

But so far ACORN itself has not been officially charged with any fraud. Aside from the heated charges and counter-charges, no evidence has yet surfaced to show that the ACORN employees who submitted fraudulent registration forms intended to pave the way for illegal voting. Rather, they were trying to get paid by ACORN for doing no work. Dan Satterberg, the Republican prosecuting attorney in King County, Wash., where the largest ACORN case to date was prosecuted, said that the indicted ACORN employees were shirking responsibility, not plotting election fraud.

Satterberg:
[A] joint federal and state investigation has determined that this scheme was not intended to permit illegal voting.

Instead, the defendants cheated their employer, the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (or ACORN), to get paid for work they did not actually perform. ACORN's lax oversight of their own voter registration drive permitted this to happen. ... It was hardly a sophisticated plan: The defendants simply realized that making up names was easier than actually canvassing the streets looking for unregistered voters. ..


So much for McCain's comment about how ACORN is "destroying the fabric of democracy". What's obvious about the Republicans and ACORN is that they are seeing the handwriting on the electoral college vote wall and blaming ACORN is a convenient way of ignoring the fact that they are losing the support of the American public.

I'd like to believe otherwise, but I've seen how the Democrats responded to the 2000 and 2004 election, and I am no illusions that the Republicans would act any differently than the other side of the isle.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Humorous moment on the campaign trail

Who would have thought that McCain and Obama would actually be able to crack jokes at their own expense, less than three weeks before the election?

These are great video clips, showing both candidates have a good sense of humor and levity at the Al Smith foundation dinner:

Videos: McCain Part I, McCain Part II

Videos: Obama Part I, Obama Part II

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Disneyland!

Robin in the Mad Hatter's teacups!

Uncle Eric, their favorite adult

Kira in a moment of calm reflection

Chriss and John's Wedding, pt. V

Charlie and Stephanie watch their little monster devour cake.

Tabby: 1 Parents: 0

Chriss and John's Wedding, pt. IV

Upon realizing that John's callous disregard for pumpkins will manifest itself in unnatural ways, Chriss shrieks in fear, wondering what she has gotten herself into.

Now that they are married, John must constantly restrain Chriss' homicidal urges.

The first domestic dispute, one hour into the marriage.

The pedestrian way to cut the cake

Chriss and John's Wedding, pt. III

You may kiss the bride...

As the priest said in The Princess Bride, "Wuv. Twu wuv..."

The happy couple

Chriss and John's Wedding, pt. II

There I am, performing the ceremony for Chriss and John.
Holy crap was I nervous.


There Charlie, John, and I wait for Chriss to walk down the isle. In case you are curious, the good book I was using was the Complete Hitchiker's Guide to the Galaxy, complete with a faux-leather cover and gold-edged pages.

Like I told John, "Don't panic!"

Chriss and John's Wedding, pt. I

The girls and I before the wedding

Seen at a McCain/Palin rally



You can't make this stuff up...

McCain and Acorn

It amazed me to listen to McCain say that Acorn was “maybe destroying the fabric of democracy.”

That's radically different than what he said when he was the keynote speaker at this group's 2006 rally.

Here is the video of him speaking at the event, including when he said “What makes America special is what’s in this room tonight.”

McCain "I am not President Bush"


I love watching videos like this when McCain talks about how he isn't Bush (and by implication how he won't be a third Bush term).

Friday, October 10, 2008

Hoover vs. Roosevelt

Surprisingly enough I found a good article on the difference between McCain and Obama on Real Clear Politics. While reading it, I came across this nugget... which I think the "deficit hawks" on the right should keep in mind while talking about talking about spending too much money on bailout plans.

The time to balance budgets is when the economy is humming. Now, the government is obligated not only to prop up the economy but also to bring back long-term growth. That will require transformative investments in infrastructure, health care, education and new green technologies.


If you think the number of Americans without health insurance is too high now, wait until this recession really kicks in. Few investments would help businesses more than offloading a share of their health care costs to the government. It's social justice with an economic kick. In fact, if these various bailout plans work, the government should get much of its money back during an economic recovery. If they don't work, balancing the budget will be the least of our problems.

...and Kira scores!

Buddy, can you spare a bone?

I wonder how she will treat her boyfriends.

Johnson. Kira Johnson. Private Eye.


At the Johnson house in Vacaville; December 7, 2006

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

The Electoral Vote

I've been obsessively tracking four electoral vote websites since May, watching the results while compiling a spreadsheet with a graph showing the ups and downs of the predicted electoral votes over the past four and a half months.




I harvest the data from Real Clear Politics (which is definitely right-leaning), Electoral-Vote.com (which is just as skewed as RCP, but to the left), electionprojection.com (ran by a hard core Christian... who was more accurate in 2004 than RCP or Electoral-Vote), and CNN's electoral calculator (which has solid data, but doesn't project any toss-up states beyond the brutally obvious... making the race look like it's somehow tighter than it is).

I use these four sites, because I exclusively used electoral-vote.com back in 2004... and then I discovered that it wasn't nearly as accurate as I hoped when it came to projecting the final results of the election. Kinda embarassing when the evangelical Christian's website (serving up political commentary with an eye towards scripture...) was more accurate than a lefty computer science professor.

Anyway, when you look at the data, there are several big trends. First is Obama being a hundred electoral votes ahead during the summer. Republicans still hated McCain and despite the Hillary leftovers, Obama could do no wrong. August saw Obama's EV lead evaporate because McCain got off the straight talk express and slung mud like never seen before. Obama took the high road, was slow to attack back, and as such his lead was smashed to peices, and for a brief period of almost a week, John McCain took the lead in the EV count. The Democratic convention helped return Obama back on top, but the Republican convention (and Palin's unveiling) pretty much cemented Obama's electoral vote lead to about about ten points. What really changed the dynamics of the race was the bailout bill and the growing awareness that the economy was tanking. A few days of Obama doing better in the polls was coupled by the overall realization that Obama always scores better with voters when the topic is the economy. Given that Republicans hate the idea of the government "socializing" Wall Street, and that McCain was for it, he really paid the price for that support in the polls.

Right now, Obama's lead is farther than McCain's than at any time during the race. In fact, while 129 electoral votes are up for grabs in states that are polling within 5% for either candidate, Obama currently has a 190 EV lead. Not too shabby. Of course, we have 28 days to go, so really anything could happen. Obama's lead can evaporate as quickly as he gained it... but honestly, I'm optimistic that if trends continue, Obama will win by a wide margin... and most likely have at least 57 senators (and a large majority of the House) backing him up in Washington. Get ready for one party politics again, the ancient eighty year old liberals on the Supreme Court to be replaced by younger fifty year old liberals, and the Democratic agenda/steamroller being the subject of republican talk radio for the next two years.

Then again, tomorrow is the second debate, and Obama could admit to being a gay terrorist who will cede America's power to Osama Bin Laden. Unless something like that happens, it will probably take that for McCain to win this election.


Thursday, October 2, 2008

Who to blame for the economy - According to FactCheck.org

So who is to blame? There's plenty of blame to go around, and it doesn't fasten only on one party or even mainly on what Washington did or didn't do. As The Economist magazine noted recently, the problem is one of "layered irresponsibility ... with hard-working homeowners and billionaire villains each playing a role." Here's a partial list of those alleged to be at fault:

* The Federal Reserve, which slashed interest rates after the dot-com bubble burst, making credit cheap.

* Home buyers, who took advantage of easy credit to bid up the prices of homes excessively.

* Congress, which continues to support a mortgage tax deduction that gives consumers a tax incentive to buy more expensive houses.

* Real estate agents, most of whom work for the sellers rather than the buyers and who earned higher commissions from selling more expensive homes.

* The Clinton administration, which pushed for less stringent credit and downpayment requirements for working- and middle-class families.

* Mortgage brokers, who offered less-credit-worthy home buyers subprime, adjustable rate loans with low initial payments, but exploding interest rates.

* Former Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan, who in 2004, near the peak of the housing bubble, encouraged Americans to take out adjustable rate mortgages.

* Wall Street firms, who paid too little attention to the quality of the risky loans that they bundled into Mortgage Backed Securities (MBS), and issued bonds using those securities as collateral.

* The Bush administration, which failed to provide needed government oversight of the increasingly dicey mortgage-backed securities market.

* An obscure accounting rule called mark-to-market, which can have the paradoxical result of making assets be worth less on paper than they are in reality during times of panic.

* Collective delusion, or a belief on the part of all parties that home prices would keep rising forever, no matter how high or how fast they had already gone up.

The U.S. economy is enormously complicated. Screwing it up takes a great deal of cooperation. Claiming that a single piece of legislation was responsible for (or could have averted) is just political grandstanding. We have no advice to offer on how best to solve the financial crisis. But these sorts of partisan caricatures can only make the task more difficult.