Thursday, January 31, 2008

best one liner

so far from the ongoing presidential election in the U.S.A. (best one I've seen)

"Does Laura Bush get to run for president in 8 years?"

officially torturers

Well, it's official. The United States of America tortures people.

And if you are American, then when you pay your taxes between now and April, you're helping to pay Mukasey's salary, along with the salaries of all the U.S. soldiers and operatives who will continue to murder and torture people around the world.

Think about it. Below is from this New York Times story

WASHINGTON — Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey said Wednesday that while he would consider it torture if he underwent the harsh Central Intelligence Agency interrogation technique known as waterboarding, the practice was not necessarily illegal, and he would not rule out its use in the future.

Under sometimes angry questioning from Democrats at his first oversight hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Mr. Mukasey found himself caught in the debate that nearly derailed his confirmation last fall: whether waterboarding is torture.

“Would waterboarding be torture if it were done to you?” asked Senator Edward M. Kennedy, Democrat of Massachusetts, glowering at Mr. Mukasey.

“I would feel that it was,” Mr. Mukasey acknowledged in the low monotone that he uses in virtually all public settings.

But the attorney general, a retired federal judge, would not be drawn into a larger conversation with Senator Kennedy or other Democrats over whether waterboarding might amount to torture if

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Monday, January 28, 2008

A little quiz about privilege, or social class. The idea is to bold the ones that apply to you. H/T Byron

1. Father went to college.
2. Father finished college.
3. Mother went to college.
4. Mother finished college.
5. Have any relative who is or was an attorney, physician, or professor.
6. Were the same or higher class than your high school teachers.
7. Had more than 50 books in your childhood home.
8. Had more than 500 books in your childhood home.
9. Were read children’s books by a parent.
10. Had lessons of any kind before you turned 18.
11. Had more than two kinds of lessons before you turned 18.
12. The people in the media who dress and talk like me are portrayed positively.
13. Had a credit card with your name on it before you turned 18.
14. Your parents (or a trust) paid for the majority of your college costs.
15. Your parents (or a trust) paid for all of your college costs.
16. Went to a private high school.
17. Went to summer camp.
18. Had a private tutor before you turned 18.
19. Family vacations involved staying at hotels.
20. Your clothing was all bought new before you turned 18.
21. Your parents bought you a car that was not a hand-me-down from them.
22. There was original art in your house when you were a child
23. You and your family lived in a single-family house.
24. Your parent(s) owned their own house or apartment before you left home.
25. You had your own room as a child.
26. You had a phone in your room before you turned 18.
27. Participated in a SAT/ACT prep course.
28. Had your own TV in your room in high school.
29. Owned a mutual fund or IRA in high school or college.
30. Flew anywhere on a commercial airline before you turned 16.
31. Went on a cruise with your family.
32. Went on more than one cruise with your family.
33. Your parents took you to museums and art galleries as you grew up.
34. You were unaware of how much heating bills were for your family.

So I got 12 out of 34. How did you do? What other statements do you think should be added? What does it mean about wealth, class, and privilege?

Sunday, January 27, 2008


Victory in South Carolina

"We're looking to fundamentally change the status quo in Washington"

I dare you to watch the whole 16 minutes and *not* get an astounding shiver of powerful emotional connection.

 Popular VoteDelegates
Obama542883 63
Clinton381849 48
Edwards218573 26

Can anyone tell me how to fix all that blank space that show up between the embedded video and the table?

Friday, January 25, 2008


How can you not want this guy to be president? I mean for the "nuclear" alone, I'd vote for him.


This is frickin' awesome. H/T Helen

My lovely mum now has pneumonia (which, by the way, should be pronounced "puhnuh MOAN yuh), to go with the cancer and the abdominal surgery. But she's ... she's a fighter. I love you mom. Please everybody make sure you don't tell my mom about this video. She'd find it very disturbing.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

What's the big idea? the visionless Hillary Clinton

I recently told a good friend of mine that if Hillary Clinton wins the democratic nomination, I fear I'll have to vote for McCain. He jokingly threatened to break my legs before I could go to the polls. I was mostly joking, but I grow increasingly serious. Not that my vote would count for much, here, since Washington State is very nearly guaranteed to go for the democratic candidate whoever they may be. Then again, if we've *moved* by November, we may be in a different situation.

But honestly, one *does* get the sensation that she'll say anything to win the nomination, falsely accusing her main opponent for the nomination on *multiple* fronts, including his supposed work for a so called "slumlord" and his supposed love for "republican ideas". See

Why does she want so badly to be president? It looks to me like Obama and Edwards both have a big central idea that is inspiring them to take on the insanely difficult task of being president. But for Hillary, I can't find that idea. What is it? It seems like it's more about "I actually *want* all that power".

To me, that's *nuts*. I mean no way in *hell* I'd run for president. But if something *were* to get me to run, it would be some Huge, super inspiring idea. Then I would be running in *spite* of my cynicism toward the whole system. To actually *want* the position for the position's sake is just out there.

An open ended question:

What is spiritual abuse?

Mars Hill Graduate School

Yesterday I attended my first ever class at Mars Hill Graduate School with the super brilliant Jen (I would normally link Jen's blog here. But I think she may be into keeping her blog relatively private. I shall ask). Thank you for the invitation, Jen! A few impressions:

  • Money. The ... global impression was that there is rather a lot of ambient money in the environment. The location, the ... decor, the laptops, the clothing, ... etc.
  • Whiteness. Everybody, or if I missed someone then at least very *nearly* everybody, was white, in the "White American of European descent" sense.
  • Intensity. As with my previous encounters with Mars Hill faculty and students, people were *intense*. I mean to say that, for instance, they were into asking and being asked very hard questions, both about themselves, the world, others, ... I'm talking about at a fairly terrifying level. I wouldn't say they weren't afraid. Rather they were into pinpointing what they were afraid of and then turning to fully engage it. I am enormously drawn toward and repulsed by this (as has previously been the case). I find myself hoping that, in general regarding this sort of thing, the attraction will win over the repulsion. But I'm not at all confident that will be the case, for me.
  • Excellence. I got the feeling that excellence was being pursued. People who graduate from the counselling program, me thinks, are going to be very good counsellors. At least for other wealthy white people.
  • Anger. I felt angry, in between being fascinated, attracted, and repulsed. Brain McClaren said "Americans are the most excellent consumers in the history of the world" We (yes, of *course* I'm part of it) are consuming excellent education at a relatively high level, from a global perspective. We're using up prodigous resources in that pursuit, while 25,000 children starve to death today. While our government oversees the deaths of hundreds of innocent Iraqi civilians every week. While one billion people won't be able to have a safe drink of water today. How dare we? How unfair is it? Is it possible that it's actually *impossible* for the whole world to consume at this level, and that therefore the *only* way, ultimately, for the consumption level of the poorest to be raised is for us to *lower* our consumption level? All this stuff going through my head during the two hour group therapy class yesterday.
  • They'd never let me in anyway. I mean it's a *seminary*! And I'm not even a Christian. Oh well. I wouldn't really want to do it anyway. Too intense (I'm convincing myself here).

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

the balance has tipped

11 out, 10 still standing.


I'm telling myself that this is normal. Everyone reaches a point where one or both of their parents are really sick and/or dying. Ok, not everyone. Some people's parent's die before their old enough to know about it, and some people have no idea who their parents are, being raised by foster parents or what have you.

But it's *fairly* normal. I guess it's probably not super close to the middle of the curve in terms of what age it happens at in North America. Probably most people get to be 40 or 50 or older before they deal with this. But the point is that everyone has to deal with this--it's normal.

Being of the brain damaged gender (and no doubt I somehow got more of this than most), it takes things time to ... register, with me. I remember kind of waking up one day when Eowyn was about 6 weeks old and thinking "Holy God, this is ... *huge*! life-altering!" My wife graciously said "Ummmm.... did you just now realize that?" To which I replied "Ummmmm.... yes, actually"

So I am saddish and snappish-at-people. Not to an unbearable extent. Just a little. I still haven't gotten to that "ah, it's dawning on me" with this. Give me time. some of us are a bit slower in certain areas.

Monday, January 21, 2008

two martin luther king weekend sermons

So a simple question. It's a decent bet that one of these two voices will, in many ways, be the voice of the United States starting in 2009. Which one do you want to be listening to for at least 4 years?


Sunday, January 20, 2008

sick parents

Today was fairly stressful for me.

My dad just had abdominal surgery about 10 days ago, and is still very much in a recovery mode. Although he's up and about, he's not moving super fast or lifting much of anything. And he's finding it difficult to adjust his eating and insulin levels so as to maintain his blood sugar in the proper range.

My mother, who was supposed to start radiation on Monday for a cancerous growth in her abdomen, had terrible cramping and vomiting all weekend. Today she went to Valley General Hospital in Monroe, which isn't exactly super inspiring to start with since I'm used to big Seattle Hospitals like UW Medical Center which are national leaders in everything. (I mean who am I to complain? There are at least a billion people on the planet who couldn't dream of having the level of medical care available at valley general.) They did a scan and decided to do emergent surgery because her intestine/bowel was blocked.

As it turns out, it was just scar tissue from her previous surgery. They were able to fix it and I'm told she should be able to recover. But it's still frightening, right in the middle of dealing with the cancer. And my dad finds it *really* hard not to be able to take care of her in the way he'd like since he's still recovering from his own surgery.

Anyway, the whole thing is yucky and frightening. So i spent the afternoon evening hanging out over there with my mega brilliant sister Kat and my dad's good friend Lloyd, who is an absolute gem. Don't know how we'd be coping without this without all his help. He rocks.

So that was my day. I'm thinking I should (there, I've digressed to shoulding on myself. See that?) focus on just sitting with this thing, instead of complaining about it, avoiding it, or what have you.

Explanation requested

Can anyone explain to me how it is that Agatha Christie is ahead of Tolkien in this list? (I suspect the data is at best out of date, and at worst plain wrong)

language dreams and aspirations

So I was looking at wikipedia's "languages by number of speakers". Some notes:

The best information about how many languages there are, and how many people speak them, apparently comes from Christians. Why? They're interested in getting the Bible to all these people in their "heart language" (which is to say the language they most comfortably think in) (there's probably a more technical definition of "heart language" somewhere, but that's my understanding of it). Which includes writing it down, if it's not written down yet, and teaching the people to read it. So in one sense Christians are the primary promoters of literacy on the planet. I find that fascinating. *Why* do they care so much about the Bible? I think I rather take for granted my access to and knowledge of the Bible. I can hardly stand to read it any more. It's intriguing to me that America is at some level one of the most ... bible saturated countries on the face of the planet, and also one of the most horrifically violence saturated countries on the face of the planet. I'm mostly talking about our export of violence. In fact, I would be curious to see a graph looking at a correlation between number of bibles in print and gross amount of money spent on weapons in a long list of nations. I'm willing to bet there would actually be a strong correlation (although of course this doesn't necessarily show causality).

I've got a reasonable grasp on English, and decent start on Spanish. Those are languages number 2 and 3, not necessarily in that order, with 600 to 800 million speakers. And now I'm just barely beginning Arabic, which is somewhere in the top 4 most spoken languages, with somewhere between 200 and 400 million speakers. With those three, I can communicate with something like a billion people in their first language, and well over two billion if you count everyone who speaks one of these three as a second language.

I suppose after that, the thing to do would be to attempt Mandarin, the most spoken first language on the planet, with nearly a billion native speakers. But my sense is that it's even harder than Arabic. My Middle Eastern studies professor says even once you learn modern standard Arabic, you're going to have to learn a whole new ... iteration of it 30 something times over if you want to speak to all the different Arabic speakers. That could be daunting, I suppose, but if one doesn't even step out the front door, one will never get to any destination at all.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

More on Bobby Fischer

Edward Rothstein has a very readable piece in today's New York Times entitled "Fischer vs. the World: A Chess Giant's Endgame"

The title of course references "Kasparov vs. the World", a game back in 1999 in which reigning world champion Gary Kasparov played a game of chess against the whole world. The world's moves were decided by majority vote over the internet. Kasparov, playing white, won in 62 moves.

I hope it's okay for me to rather like Fischer's story and style without anybody making any kind of assumption about me agreeing with some of his more unkind remarks about the Jews.

nevada caucuses.

So with about 12 hours before the fates of Nevada's 33 Democratic national convention delegates begin to be decided, I'd like to make the following prediction (not that any of my 3 readers cares):

Obama/Edwards is going to beat HRC by better than 60% to 40%.

Get your bumper stickers here.

Friday, January 18, 2008

a question from a history-naive person

So here's a question. I've grown up with the idea in my head that John F. Kennedy was a ... hero, a guy who would perhaps be in the top 10 of great americans of the 20th century.

Did you grow up with the same impression? Or have you *had* the same impression?

What are your thoughts about this? It's an impression I've never previously though much about. But is it true that he authorized the assassination of the president of South Vietnam, as well as the use of napalm and agent orange over there?

Your impressions/thoughts on JFK?

R.I.P. Bobby Fischer

Bobby Fischer was a bit of a hero to me when I was a kid. Not so much about the chess--I'm not really good enough at chess to be called mediocre. More because of his eccentricity. "Here is someone who is a bit wierd and a bit offputting to a lot of people", I said to myself "Just like me. And he has achieved some level of success in the world. Kewl!"

I guess I also rather like him because he managed to piss off the U.S. government and get his U.S. passport revoked, and then get granted citizenship in Iceland, the most developed country in the world. All of this strikes me as astoundingly kewl, and even to be emulated.

Bobby Fischer is most famous for becoming the only ever (formerly) American World Chess Champion back in 1972. He died today at the age of 65.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

trained killers

This story from the New York Times, part of a special series, highlighting the fact that trained American killers, intended to kill foreigners for the U.S. armed forces, can't really *that* easily turn that whole schema off when they get home.

In related news, 24 of the more than 200 civilians violently killed in Iraq so far this month were killed by American soldiers.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Klein bottle

So last quarter in advanced multivariable calculus, we learned about a thing called the Klein Bottle.

This quarter, in cognitive psych, we were talking about "geons", or "geometric icons", which according to one theory, are basic building blocks by which we recognize and categorize objects. Geons include things like ... rectilinear surfaces, wedges, cones, torus sections ... =)

The mention of geons today made me remember klein bottles--cause we don't really have a geon that fits a klein bottle, per se. Which is to say, you have to concentrate a little to visualize or coneptualize a klein bottle, since it's not found in nature.

So let me attempt to describe a klein bottle for you. Let us start with a mobius strip, which is a sort of geon for a klein bottle. Have you ever made a mobius strip? It was discovered by a mathematician in the 19th century. They're really easy to make. You simply cut a long narrow strip of paper, give it a half twist (just twist one end 180 degrees), and then tape the ends together. I remember making one as a child, and finding it fascinating. It's fascinating for various reasons. It only has *one* surface. If you don't give the twist, and tape the ends together, the strip you get has two surfaces--an inside and an outside. But with the twist, it has only one surfact--no inside and no outside. If you run your finger along the single surface of the mobius strip, you will see that your finger will come back to the point you started having touched all along it's single surface. The other kewl thing about mobius strips is that if you cut one in half lengthwise, it just become a single mobius strip twice as long, instead of falling into two halves. Very kewl. I dearly hope I haven't altogether lost you yet.

So a mobius strip has one surface and one edge. A Klein bottle has one surface and no edges. Very kewl. You can theoretically compose a klein bottle which does not intersect itself by giving it a twist out in the fourth dimension. Of course we can't actually do this (yet). But it's fun to try to think about. You can buy a hand blown glass klein bottle on ebay. Very kewl. It has no inside and no outside--it's all one surface. In mathematics we call it "non-orientable"--which is to say you can't really define "up" or "down" from the surface.

You can even buy various versions of glass klein bottles at Then you could keep it on your mantel, and show it off to your friends, and prove to everyone what a nerd you are. =)

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Another Poll

This is kind of fun (if a little frightening). The poll is: which of the following two short videos is more shocking/frightening? (remember, we're talking about the man who may end up at the helm of the most powerful military in history and have his fingers on the buttons of the world's largest nuclear aresenal). So which is scarier?


Or John:

Albert Howard

I have a sneaking suspicion that me and Albert Howard would get on really well, if we knew each other. A sort of brotherhood of the esoteric. Similar to the brotherhood of the palladium (similar to the name of this blog) Have I lost you yet? (500 points for anybody who can identify why I find Palladium fascinating)

Friday, January 11, 2008

Christian hate speech

If you think this doesn't border on hate-speech and incitement to violence, then I'd love to know why not.

American armed forces killing each other

The story making headlines today about the young U.S. marine, 8 months pregnant, who was raped by another U.S. soldier, and then recently killed, probably by a U.S. soldier, despite it's horror, is by no means unusual. More like a horrific norm. But what do you expect, when you train people to kill other people, and take steps to desensitize them to that?

Snow in Baghdad.

It snowed in Baghdad this morning for several hours--the first time in 100 years. I'm just silly, I suppose, but it strikes me as hopeful. Like beautiful things which hardly ever happen *do* sometimes happen. Imagine the delight, in that desert-ish place! Some quotes from Baghdad residents:

"It is the first time we've seen snow in Baghdad. We've seen sleet before, but never snow. I looked at the faces of all the people, they were astonished. A few minutes ago, I was covered with snowflakes. In my hair, on my shoulders. I invite all the people to enjoy peace, because the snow means peace,"

-60 year old Hassan Zahar

This snow will bring pleasure to the people of Iraq. It's beautiful!"

-baker Mohanned Rahim

eeg-erp yikes

Today we learned about a brain scanning process called EEG-ERP (electroencephelogram-event related potentials). It provides high temporal resolution, but very low spatial resoltion. That means it allows the researcher to see fine details in brain reactions in terms of *when* they occur in response to a stimulus, but *not* very much detail about *where* in the brain the reaction is occuring. But the creepy thing is the "helmet" they put on the subject's head while they are doing the EEG-ERP. Yikes.

It's better to be right than kind

Wanted to call your attention to Brian Mclaren's response to Focus on the Family's response to the brilliant, open, friendly ongoing dialogue between Christians and Muslims (imagine that)

Focus on The Family continues to further marginalize itself and alienate actual followers of Jesus. They roundly criticize Christian leaders for apologizing for Christians' part in the evils of the crusades. They continue to push the unfortunate viewpoint with which Christians in the U.S. have come to be strongly associated: It's better to be right than kind.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Liberia's tough upward road--The truth and reconciliation commission opens

Yesterday Liberia's Truth and Reconciliation Commission held it's first public hearings. It marks an astoundingly hopeful turnaround for a nation that spent 10 years in the grip of one of the more horrifying civil wars of the 20th century. They've still a ton of work ahead of them, but I hope it will not be unorthodox for me to say tres HOORAY for Liberia. They've had a truly breathtaking turnaround in the last couple of years. Almost enough to make one hope for Kenya, and Darfur, and Iraq.

Obama-Edwards 2008: why Hillary didn't actually win in New Hampshire.

2 reasons Hillary didn't actually win in New Hampshire:

Reason 1: Certainly Hillary beat Obama by 2% in New Hampshire, hardly a resounding victory for a candidate who had been leading in the polls there for *all* of 2007 (especially after Obama's resounding 9% win in Iowa). But Hillary actually *lost* to Obama-Edwards 2008 by a huge margin--15 percentage points. If I were Hillary, I think I'd quit now (not that I'd ever be crazy enough to run for president or any other political office in the first place).

Reason 2: Some 3% of Hillary's lead over Obama (that is, *all* of it!) can be attributed to the purely random *luck* of order effect. (And if you don't believe that, let me know, and we can talk about it further, because it's *easily* empirically demonstrable. Even *you* probably fall prey to order effect in some area of your life.)

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

What is that ... thing?

Can any of y'all help me out here. I have two questions.

1. What was that horrible thing Hillary Clinton was wearing in her new hampshire victory speech earlier tonite? Suggestions from here included "some kind of cushion" and "drapes".

2. Why do you suppose I find her *so* offputting. It's very visceral. I don't really have a huge ... intellectual or policy problem with her per se. But whenever I see or watch her speak, I experience this sort of ... medium level gut reaction of "yuck". My friend Markus says when we have reactions like that, they involve some combination of both the stimulus from without and the reaction from within--that is, it's not just all about the stimulus, it's also about the responder. But I can't put the old introspective finger on what is driving my response, from either side of that equation. It's more like "hunch" or "intuition". or something. ideas?


posited: "Y'all" and "y'all's" are infinitely more elegant than "you guys" and "you guys's"

Monday, January 07, 2008

What your $4 Billion a week is buying you, part 250; and a dare

This past week in Iraq: First week of January '08. Week 250 of the US$1 Trillion (that's $1,000,000,000,000) illegal invasion and occupation of Iraq: Civlian deaths

Sunday, January 6. 26 dead, including Rabee'a: US planes bomb car, kill driver -it is the 13th civilian killed by US forces so far in January, including 3 children.

Saturday, January 5. 28 dead, including Mosul: US forces open fire and kill civilian, after their patrol is targeted by roadside bomb. It is the 12th Iraqi civilian killed by US fire this month.

Friday, January 4. 4 dead.

Thursday, January 3. 34 dead, including

Baghdad: New Baghdad; US forces kill civilian during raid
Baquba: US forces kill civilian crossing the street.
Ghalhiya: US forces open fire on car, kill 2 civilians.
Mosul: = 3 (father and 2 children) shot dead by US forces after roadside bomb explodes next to their patrol.
Tal Afar: US forces kill 2 (one of them a child), after roadside bomb explosion.

Wednesday, January 2. 32 dead, including Baghdad: 6 family members (5 of them children) shot dead in minibus;

Tuesday, January 1. 62 dead, including

Buhriz: US forces kill Awakening member during raid.
Tahwela: father and his 16-year-old son are shot dead outside their house.
Mosul: US forces kill woman when missile fired from helicopter misses its target; 3 bodies.

But don't worry. There not real. They're just numbers in a blog post, from place names that mean nothing to us. Whatever you do, don't stress about it.

On the other hand: Here's a little dare for you. Choose a story above, or any other story from the full account of this past week at, which resonates with you, and let yourself sit with it, and try to imagine the reality of it, for a mere 10 minutes. I mean turn off the t.v., the phone, get somewhere quiet, and just sit with that particular story, and those particular people, and use your imagination, and try to fill in details, and emotions, and back story, and so forth. And let me know how how it goes.

To weep, or scream?

Shall the

Strait of Hormuz

be like the

Gulf of Tonkin?

Dear God I hope not.
My sympathetic nervous system is aroused over this one.
Wish I believed in the efficacy of prayer.

I've only ever met one Iranian person, and she was ... delightful. The history of Iran goes back *5000* years--even longer than the history of Vietnam. The history of white people in North America goes back .. *500* years. We don't have a fucking clue. Wish there was some quick way to get one.

the gamblers know

As a sometime gambler myself, I'm telling you that the professional gamblers know things other people don't know. Or as Brian McClaren put it, economists are the people who know everything, and they know they know everything.

So Ireland's largest bookmaker, Paddy Power, have declared Obama the winner in the race for the democratic nomination and are already paying out*. Go figure.

*(disclaimer: this news item is possibly somewhat suspect, as it is from Fox news.)

Sunday, January 06, 2008

A Hell of a Thing to say

So do you want the person who said this earlier today to be your next president?:

She did not spare President Bush in her remarks, either. In Hampton on Sunday night, Mrs. Clinton ribbed Mr. Bush for saying he had looked into the soul of President Vladimir V. Putin. “I could have told him Putin was a K.G.B. agent,” she said. “He has no soul.”
Very presidential. Nice way to improve relations with a nation that still has 7200 active strategic nuclear weapons.

Can someone please explain to me what the *hell* is up with Ms. Clinton *saying* something like that?

Welcome to American Christianity--the Matthew LaClair story

Wanted to share this fascinating story with y'all about Matthew LaClair and his experience with his overbearing high school teacher.

In short, Matthew is the high school student who taped his history teacher raving about Creationism, how evolution was untrue, and how non-Christians belonged in hell, among other things.

Recently pollsters David Kinnaman and Gable Lyons published UnChristian, What a New Generation Thinks about Christianity, and Why it Matters. They found that young people in America pretty much find Christians unbearable, and that their negative opinions are largely based on their personal interactions with Christians. Matthew LaClair's story helps illustrate why this is the case.

I like this person's photographs

Something about them ... draws me.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Predicting a win

So I don't know if any of y'all (H/T Kristie) follow the Iowa Electronic Markets. It's a non profit, actual money market that trades in presidential futures (among other things). Anyone who wants to can open an account for between $5 and $500, and basically they can bet on who will win the republican nomination, the decmocratic nomination, or the overall election for U.S. president. Each winning share is worth one dollar, and each non-winning share is worth $0, payable after the two party nominating conventions and after the actual election.

Well, okay, I'm no economist by any stretch of the imagination, and I guess it's at least a little more complicated than that. But you get the idea. Apparently (by some accounts) the IEM has been a bit more accurate than traditional polling in predicting who will win the nominations and/or the final election.

All that to say that for the Democratic nomination, Clinton shares have been selling for over 50 cents (out of a dollar split among all candidates) for quite a while now, and today, for the first time in ages, she slipped below 50 cents, while Obama has risen to 54 cents. Which is yotta kewl. From January 5, 2008, IEM, 8:30 PM Pacific time: (ok, the formatting is shocking here. I'm too lazy to fix it.) Just look at the actual web page


and here's the history (again. not very clear below. Click on the link to see the real version. Obama is green, Hillary is blue)

Friday, January 04, 2008

"A Confirming Election" and "The spirit of Party"--why Obama matters

Scott Rasmussen of the polling organization Rasmussen Reports recently wrote a really fascinating commentary entitled "The United States Needs a Confirming Election". He says:

The United States is in dire need of an election where somebody wins big, an election that confirms someone with a real majority, and an election that provides the nation with some sense of a prevailing public perspective. Big Victories in Presidential elections don’t make everyone happy, but they do help to unify the nation and improve the health of our political system.

He defines a Big Victory as winning at least 55% of the popular vote and 75% of the electoral votes. He says only 1 of the last 8 elections have been a big victory (Reagan in 1984), whereas 9 of the 14 elections before 1976 were big victories.

I think he has a great point. I mean how nice would it be to see the nation united instead of so bitterly divided? And I think it's exceedingly clear that Obama is the only candidate from any party who can accomplish that. He's certainly the one who promotes the ideas of national unity and dialogue rather than partisanship the most, and has been doing so for the longest.

George Washington, called by some "the father of our nation", seemed to agree with Rasmussen and Obama. In his farewell address, Washington said:

Let me now take a more comprehensive view, and warn you in the most solemn manner against the baneful effects of the spirit of party generally.

This spirit, unfortunately, is inseparable from our nature, having its root in the strongest passions of the human mind. It exists under different shapes in all governments, more or less stifled, controlled, or repressed; but, in those of the popular form, it is seen in its greatest rankness, and is truly their worst enemy.

The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge, natural to party dissension, which in different ages and countries has perpetrated the most horrid enormities, is itself a frightful despotism. But this leads at length to a more formal and permanent despotism. The disorders and miseries which result gradually incline the minds of men to seek security and repose in the absolute power of an individual; and sooner or later the chief of some prevailing faction, more able or more fortunate than his competitors, turns this disposition to the purposes of his own elevation, on the ruins of public liberty.

Without looking forward to an extremity of this kind (which nevertheless ought not to be entirely out of sight), the common and continual mischiefs of the spirit of party are sufficient to make it the interest and duty of a wise people to discourage and restrain it.

It serves always to distract the public councils and enfeeble the public administration. It agitates the community with ill-founded jealousies and false alarms, kindles the animosity of one part against another, foments occasionally riot and insurrection.

Barack's Iowa Victory Speech: HOPE

"We are choosing hope over fear, we're choosing unity over division"

"This was the moment when we finally beat back the politics of fear and doubt and cynicism--the politics when we tear each other down instead of lifting this country up"

"For many months, we've been teased, even derided for talking about hope.

But we always knew that hope is not blind optimism. It's not ignoring the enormity of the task ahead or the roadblocks that stand in our path. It's not sitting on the sidelines or shirking from a fight. Hope is that thing inside us that insists, despite all evidence to the contrary, that something better awaits us if we have the courage to reach for it, and to work for it, and to fight for it.

Hope is what I saw in the eyes of the young woman in Cedar Rapids who works the night shift after a full day of college and still can't afford health care for a sister who's ill; a young woman who still believes that this country will give her the chance to live out her dreams.

Hope is what I heard in the voice of the New Hampshire woman who told me that she hasn't been able to breathe since her nephew left for Iraq; who still goes to bed each night praying for his safe return.

Hope is what led a band of colonists to rise up against an empire; what led the greatest of generations to free a continent and heal a nation; what led young women and young men to sit at lunch counters and brave fire hoses and march through Selma and Montgomery for freedom's cause.

Hope-hope-is what led me here today - with a father from Kenya; a mother from Kansas; and a story that could only happen in the United States of America. Hope is the bedrock of this nation; the belief that our destiny will not be written for us, but by us; by all those men and women who are not content to settle for the world as it is; who have the courage to remake the world as it should be."

Thursday, January 03, 2008

this guy really does get to me

Not only is Obama the winner in Iowa, the candidate with the kewlest spouse (although hillary runs a close second here), the only candidate who manages to cut through my relatively well developed cynicism, and by far the most presidential--he's also got the cutest kids.

biblical worldview

Posited: "Biblical worldview" is ... gibberish. It's a mismatch of types. It's like saying "the curl of the div of a vector field" or ... "the escape velocity from a black hole". It has no meaning. It's an attempt to force onto a diverse body of literature a metanarrative, metatheme, and typology which just isn't there. It's like saying "American accent". No such thing. Such a broad generalization becomes meaningless. It's like saying "Latin American culture". When you attempt to make a telescope to see that far or that broadly, you end up seeing nothing--the image becomes meaningless. All you end up actually talking about is "My worldview".

done ranting now.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008


So the Barack Obama campaign is working toward the goal of 500,000 owning a piece of the campaign before the Iowa caucuses tomorrow. Right now they're sitting a ~485,000.

If you want to donate to the campaign, you can do it here.

I guess I feel ... hopeful about this guy. Which is pretty wierd for me, since I tend to be super cynical. No doubt my hopes will be crushed, one way or another. Oh well.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

John McCain on foreign policy

Would it be evil for me to hope that John McCain wins the republican nomination, so that Barack (who's about to win Iowa!) can soundly trounce him in the general?

Here's McCain's new ad from today against Mitt Romney regarding foreign policy experience.

Note how he not so subtly implies the same thing that W and co have been telling us for years: "The world is a very dangerous place, full of islamic terrorists who want to kill you. You need me and lots of military power to keep you safe"

And here's McCain from about 8 months ago regarding his own intended foreign policy.

Asked later how he would respond to critics charging his ("bomb bomb bomb bomb bomb Iran") comments were insensitive, Mr. McCain responded, “Insensitive to what? The Iranians?