Tuesday, January 29, 2008

St. Louis Weather

70 degrees at noon today, a record. Right now, it's less than 27 degrees. Need I say more?

Break Down of the Issues - Part 8

Domestic Policy

Well it looks like I made it before whatever you want to call next Tuesday. This is the last major topic I intend to do a break down on, but if anyone has more areas they would like me to dig into to compare, please feel free to ask in the comments or email me. Once the Republican field has thinned a bit (maybe after today?) I will try to compare them on the same topics.

Domestic policy will be broken up into numerous sections as the candidates go in depth on plans for numerous topics. See also Part 1, Part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5, part 6 and part 7. Again, all of these policy statements are taken from the candidates' campaign websites.

Hillary Clinton John Edwards Barack Obama
Civil Liberties
  • Support equal pay for women and men
  • Expand access to family planning services
  • Require businesses to offer seven paid sick days a year
  • Expand the Family and Medical Leave Act to cover more workers and help states offer paid leave
  • Protect women's right to choose
  • Support the Paycheck Fairness Act to strengthen the remedies for sex discrimination
  • Work to overturn the Supreme Court's recent ruling that curtails racial minorities' and women's ability to challenge pay discrimination
  • Pass the Fair Pay Act to ensure that women receive equal pay for equal work
  • Make preserving women’s rights under Roe v. Wade a priority
  • Ensure that all Americans in committed relationships have equal benefits
  • End Don't Ask Don't Tell
  • Support civil unions to guarantee gay and lesbian couples the same rights as straight couples
  • Repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act
  • Allow LGBT to serve openly in the military
  • Allow gay and lesbian parents to adopt children equally to strait couples
  • Support civil unions that give same-sex couples equal legal rights and privileges as married couples
  • Repeal Defence of Marriage Act
  • Expand federal benefits to same sex couples
  • Repeal Don't Ask Don't Tell
Government and Elections
  • Ban cabinet officials from lobbying a Hillary Clinton administration
  • Strengthen whistle blower protections
  • End abuse of no-bid government contracts and post all contracts online
  • Cut 500,000 government contractors
  • Restore the Office of Technology Assessment
  • Publish budgets for every government agency
  • Push the passage of the Count Every Vote Act
    • Provides a paper trail for every vote cast
    • Designates Election Day as a national holiday
    • Allows same-day registration
    • Makes sure that impartial officials administer our elections
    • Allows the attorney general to bring suit against anyone using deceptive practices (like distributing flyers with incorrect information about voter eligibility) to keep voters from voting
  • Require the use of paper ballots verified by voters and mandatory audits
  • Allow same-day voter registration
  • Support the right of Washington, D.C. residents to have voting representation in Congress
  • Enact a new law making intentional interference with the right to vote a federal offense
  • Prohibit Chief of State election officials from publicly supporting federal candidates
  • Create a federal matching funds program to do an 8:1 match on campaign donations, up to a maximum $800 (donations over $100 still get $800 matched); limit donations to $1,000
  • Provide for public matching funding for Congressional campaigns
  • Require corporations to disclose all political spending and activity
  • Create a line item veto restricted to one package of rescissions per bill that can be overruled by Congress
  • Prohibit all federal candidates from accepting campaign contributions or bundled contributions from federal lobbyists
  • Bar appointees from lobbying their former colleagues for five years
  • Expand the definition of prohibited lobbying to include directing strategy for other lobbyists
  • Ban corporate lobbyists and lobbyists for foreign governments from working in the White House
  • Require lobbyists to disclose within 48 hours which federal officials they met with and what about
  • Prohibit executive branch employees from accepting corporate gifts
  • End the practice of issuing presidential "signing statements"
  • Create a centralized Internet database of lobbying reports, ethics records, and campaign finance filings
  • Ensure that any tax breaks for corporate recipients, or tax earmarks, are also publicly available for viewing online
  • Require independent monitoring of lobbying laws and ethics rules
  • Support public financing of campaigns
  • Provide free television and radio time to campaigns
  • Require that nearly all government contract orders over $25,000 be competitively awarded
  • Require all non-emergency bills be available to the American public to review and comment for five days before signing
  • Require disclosure of the name of the legislator who asks for each earmark, along with a written justification, 72 hours before it can be voted on
  • Ensure that all communications about regulatory policymaking between third parties and White House staff are disclosed to the public
  • No political appointees will be permitted to work on regulations or contracts directly and substantially related to their prior employer for two years
  • No political appointee will be able to lobby the executive branch during the remainder of the administration
  • All new hires at the agencies to sign a form affirming that no political appointee offered them the job solely on the basis of political affiliation or contribution
First Amendment and Privacy
  • Unable to find specific information on her site
  • Prohibit surveillance of Americans’ phone calls and emails without a warrant
  • Define robust public interest obligations for digital broadcasters
  • Encourage diversity in the ownership of broadcast media
  • Promote the development of new media outlets for expression of diverse viewpoints
  • Supports restrictions on how personal information may be used and create technology safeguards to verify how the information has actually been used
  • Update surveillance laws to ensure that law enforcement investigations and intelligence-gathering relating to U.S. citizens are done only under the rule of law
  • Appoint the nation’s first Chief Technology Officer
    • Ensure the safety of our communications networks
    • Ensure that each arm of the federal government makes its records open
    • Ensure technological interoperability of key government functions
  • N/A
  • Close down Guantanamo Bay
  • Restore habeas corpus
  • Eliminate sentencing disparities
  • Give first-time, non-violent offenders a chance to serve their sentence, where appropriate, in drug rehabilitation programs

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Break Down of the Issues - Part 7

Domestic Policy

Sadly, while the following issue is one dividing communities across our country, the candidates do not go very in depth on their immigration policies. Domestic policy will be broken up into numerous sections as the candidates go in depth on plans for numerous topics. See also Part 1, Part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5 and part 6. Again, all of these policy statements are taken from the candidates' campaign websites.

Hillary Clinton John Edwards Barack Obama
Link Link Link Link
  • Deploy new technology that can help stop the flow of undocumented immigrants
  • Create a new employer verification system
  • Protect families in the immigration policy
  • Opposes a general guest worker program
  • supports an Ag Jobs program which will include fair wage and labor protections for the workers
  • Increase border patrol forces
  • Keep family reunification as a core of our immigration laws
  • Give illegal immigrants here the opportunity to pay a fine and learn English to earn American citizenship
  • Increase personnel and infrastructure along the border
  • Crack down on employers hiring illegal immigrants
  • Focus immigration reforms on family reunification and jobs
  • Illegal immigrants may pay a fine, learn English, and go to the back of the line to gain legal status
  • Promote economic development in Mexico to decrease illegal immigration

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Break Down of the Issues - Part 6

Domestic Policy

Back on track. After a one week battle with our bathroom, we finally have a new floor in. My advice to anyone planning to do any work on ceramic tile, buy a wet saw. The other tools out there are important (tile scorer, tile nipper, etc.) but after fighting with these tools for three days to almost no avail, the wet saw let me cut everything and get it in mortar in about six to eight hours. And now on to the second most commonly discussed subject in this campaign - health care.

Domestic policy will be broken up into numerous sections as the candidates go in depth on plans for numerous topics. See also Part 1, Part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5 and part 7. Again, all of these policy statements are taken from the candidates' campaign websites.

Hillary Clinton John Edwards Barack Obama
Health Care
Link Link (PDF) Link
  • Give people the choice of current insurance plans or allow them to select from the congressional health plans
  • Strengthen Medicaid and CHIP
  • Require large employers to provide insurance at least partially, give small business tax cuts to provide insurance
  • Give individuals a tax credit for coverage designed to keep premiums to a fixed percent of income
  • Remove hidden taxes to reduce premium cost for current civilian plans
  • Include mental, physical, and, in some plans, dental coverage
  • End unfair health insurance discrimination
  • Create regional health care markets allowing individuals and businesses in a region to pool their money to get lower premiums
  • Expand Medicaid and SCHIP to cover families with children making 50k or less
  • Require businesses to cover employees, at least partially
  • Refundable tax credits to reduce insurance costs
  • Cover mental health care as well as physical
  • Reform insurance laws to ensure everyone is eligible
  • Lower premium incentives for healthy lifestyle
  • Create a public benefit program similar to the Congressional one
  • Expand Medicaid and SCHIP
  • Employers will be required to provide at least partial coverage, or contribute to a national plan
  • Individuals who aren't eligible for Medicaid/SCHIP can receive federal subsidies if needed
  • Create the National Health Insurance Exchange - watchdog group that will monitor participating insurance companies and provide individuals with a way to compare them
  • Dependant coverage through a parent's plan expanded up to the age of 25
  • Cover preventative, mental, and pregnancy health care
  • Guaranteed eligibility, no matter pre-existing conditions
  • Simplify public plan enrollment
  • Regular audits of participating insurance companies
  • Set minimum standards for state health initiatives, but will not overrule plans that meet/exceed this standard
  • Reimburse insurance plans for catastrophic event coverage, if reimbursement is used to keep premiums down
  • No new provider initiatives provided on her site
  • Pay doctors based on results
  • Easily available health care provider quality reports
  • Push the use of electronic medical records
  • Restrict direct to consumer drug advertising for new drugs
  • Strengthen FDA monitoring policy
  • Reward providers who give better quality results
  • Require health care providers to publish care reports
  • Independent institute to review providers
  • Invest 10 billion to move paper records to electronic records over 5 years
  • Bring antitrust laws to bear against malpractice insurance providers that overcharge physicians
  • Allow consumers to buy drugs from other developed countries
  • Require individuals to obtain insurance
  • Require all Americans to get insurance (special case exemptions)
  • All children must be covered
*A mandate is a requirement for each individual to purchase insurance. Candidates have not yet specified on their sites what penalties will be faced by those who do not.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008


Sorry for the long delay on continuing the policy comparison. I still have at least three more policy areas I intend to focus on, but the real world interferes. We bought, this past weekend, a new sink cabinet to replace our large old clunker of one in the master bath. I had already replaced all of the fixtures in the old sink cabinet, so I figured taking out the old one and putting in a new one couldn't be that much more difficult. As my wife so eloquently describes though, nothing is ever easy.

See you on the other side of home repairs...

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Break Down of the Issues - Part 5

Domestic Policy

Domestic policy will be broken up into numerous sections as the candidates go in depth on plans for numerous topics. See also Part 1, Part 2, part 3, part 4, part 6 and part 7. Again, all of these policy statements are taken from the candidates' campaign websites.

Hillary Clinton John Edwards Barack Obama
Link Link Link Link Link
  • Expand the child tax credit
  • Provide marriage penalty relief
  • Expand the earned income tax credit
  • Expand the child care tax credit
  • Create a new "Get Ahead" tax credit to match up to $500 a year in savings for families earning up to $75,000
  • Expand the child care credit to pay up to 50 percent of child and dependent care expenses up to $5,000
  • Triple the earned income tax credit for single adults and cut the marriage penalty
  • Create a tax credit providing up to $500 per person, or $1,000 per working family
  • Create a Universal Mortgage Credit that even tax payers who don't itemize are eligible for
  • Triple the earned income tax credit; increase it six fold for people caring for a child or paying child support
  • Eliminate income taxes for seniors making less than $50,000
  • Simplify filing tax paperwork by allowing the IRS to supply pre-filled 1040EZ forms to people who request it
  • Increase the child and dependent care tax credit and make it refundable
  • Reduce the self employment tax
  • Eliminate capital gains taxes on start-up companies
  • Clean up the corporate tax code
  • Create an International Tax Evasion Watch List to apply pressure on countries acting as tax havens
Mortgages and other debt
  • Develop strong licensing standards and require federal registration for mortgage brokers
  • Eliminate prepayment penalties on mortgage products
  • Expand Fannie Mae's and Freddie Mac's foreclosure prevention efforts
  • Pass a law that will strengthen underwriting standards to ensure that borrowers receive affordable loans suited to their means
  • Create a new Family Savings and Credit Commission to protect consumers
  • Cap interest rates on all payday loans at 36 percent
  • Push the STOP FRAUD act through Congress, strengthening the ability for the government to fight mortgage fraud
  • Create a fund to help homeowners refinance mortgages
  • Create a credit card rating system enforced by the FTC
  • Establish a credit card bill of rights:
    • CCs have to get consumer assent to change the agreement
    • Interest rate changes only affect future debt
    • Prohibit interest on fees
    • Prohibit a change on interest rate based on failure to pay a third party
    • Require CCs apply payments to highest interest debt first
  • Nothing specific available on her site.
  • Raise the minimum wage to at least $9.50 an hour by 2012 and then index it to inflation
  • Create a million short-term jobs to help individuals move into permanent work
  • Increase federal investments into transitional jobs
  • Index minimum wage to inflation
  • Insist on a move back toward a balanced budget and surpluses by funding new expenditures with new revenues or cuts in other areas
  • Create a million vouchers over five years to help low-income families move to better neighborhoods
  • N/A

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Break Down of the Issues - Part 4

Domestic Policy

Domestic policy will be broken up into numerous sections as the candidates go in depth on plans for numerous topics. See also Part 1, Part 2, part 3, part 5, part 6 and part 7. Again, all of these policy statements are taken from the candidates' campaign websites.

Hillary Clinton John Edwards Barack Obama
Link Link Link
  • Initiate a cap and trade program
  • All new federal buildings designed to produce zero emissions
  • Initiate cap and trade system, targets of 15% reduction by 2020, 80% by 2050
  • Initiate cap and trade system, target of 80% below 1990 levels by 2050
  • Create Low Carbon Fuel Standard - fuels reduce carbon emission by 10% by 2020
  • All new buildings to be designed for zero emissions by 2030
  • Reduce projected 2020 energy usage by 20%
  • 25% of electricity produced by renewable sources by 2025
  • 60 billion gallons of biofuels in the system by 2030
  • Fuel efficiency of 55 mpg by 2030, automakers funded in this by $20 billion in bonds
  • Retrofit 20 million low income houses to increase energy efficiency
  • Invest in a smart grid
  • Meet demand for more energy through increased efficiency, not increased production
  • 25% of energy from renewable sources by 2025
  • Increase research funding for clean coal
  • Get the first 2 billion gallons of cellulosic ethanol by 2013
  • Create incentives to fund locally owned biofuel refineries
  • 36 billion gallons of renewable fuels in the system by 2022, 60 by 2030
  • Double fuel economy standards by 2026
  • New building energy efficiency to increase 50% by 2030, existing buildings by 25%
  • Invest in a smart grid
  • $150 billion extra funding over 10 years, $50 billion from a new Strategic Energy Fund, this partially funded by oil companies
  • A new ARPA-E agency modeled on DARPA to manage this research
  • Create an Energy Economy Fund with $10 billion for environmental R&D, funded partially through green house gas permits (see cap and trade) and partially through repealing oil company subsidies
  • $150 billion over 10 years to fund green energy research
  • Double research and energy funding
  • $10 billion per year for 5 years to fund venture capital for clean technology start-ups
  • Create a competitive grant to fund early adopters
  • Require all publicly traded corporations to report the threat posed to them by climate change
  • Forge a new global climate change treaty that will include requirements for developing nations
  • Create incentives to increase forestation
  • Work through the UN to address global climate change

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Break Down of the Issues - Part 3

Domestic Policy

Domestic policy will be broken up into numerous sections as the candidates go in depth on plans for numerous topics. Check out part 1, part 2, part 4, part 5 part 6 and part 7. Again, all of these policy statements are taken from the candidates' campaign websites.

In this post I also want to make a request. Science has been the 800 lb gorilla in the room for the past several years. The candidates and the debates, unfortunately, give only passing mention of the real issues in science today. This is why I support the call for a full science debate this presidential election cycle. Please join me and thousands of others in supporting this debate.

Hillary Clinton John Edwards Barack Obama
Science and Technology
Link Link
Research and Funding
  • Increase NSF, DOE's Office of Science, and DOD funding 50% over 10 years
  • Increase NIH funding 50% in 5 years, 100% in 10 years
  • Require 8% of federal research funding go to "high risk" studies
  • Have agencies create innovation awards, along the lines of the X-Prize
  • Make the Research and Experimentation tax credit permanent
  • Include diversity criteria when awarding grants to give women and minorities greater opportunities
  • Make the Research and Experimentation tax credit permanent
  • Increase NIH/NSF funding
  • Make the Research and Experimentation tax credit permanent
  • Double research agency funding
  • Tax incentives to increase broadband deployment
  • No clear net neutrality stance since starting her campaign, did co-sponsor legislation before the campaign with Senator Obama meant to enforce it.
  • 100% broadband coverage by 2010
  • FCC must enforce net neutrality
  • Universal broadband coverage through the auspices of the Universal Service Fund
  • Increase the minimum speed that qualifies as broadband from the current 200 kbps
  • Supports net neutrality; co-sponsored a bill with Senator Clinton meant to enforce it
  • Protect personal privacy through new regulations on surveillance and data collection
  • Create "Public Media 2.0" to promote internet safety, etc. to children
  • Require distribution of tools to allow parents to regulate internet content
Please see also my previous post on education as the candidates also intend to increase science and math education

Break Down of the Issues - Part 2

Domestic Policy

Domestic policy will be broken up into numerous sections as the candidates go in depth on plans for numerous topics. See also Part 1, Part 3, part 4, part 5 part 6 and part 7. Again, all of these policy statements are taken from the candidates' campaign websites.

Hillary Clinton John Edwards Barack Obama
Early education through elementary
  • Create (expand?) Early Head Start
  • Universal Pre-school
  • Expand Smart Start
  • Universal Pre-school
  • Expand (Early) Smart Start funding fourfold
  • Provide affordable childcare
Middle and High School
  • Reform No Child Left Behind
  • Reform NCLB
    • Improve testing methods
    • Give states control over how to reform under performing schools
  • Create a "Second Chance" program to address dropout issue
  • Increase guidance councilor availability
  • Reform NCLB
    • Increase funding
    • Improve testing methods
    • Support under performing schools; don't punish them
  • Increase focus on math and science education and, for Limited English Proficient students, English education
  • Fund schools to address dropout issue
  • Expand after-school/summer learning programs
  • Offer $3,500 tax credit to offset costs
  • Increase Pell Grants to annually match against tuition costs
  • $500 million in grants to improve community colleges
  • Give colleges incentives to increase graduation rates
  • Increase AmeriCorps education award to $10,000
  • Allow FAFSA application through tax return
  • To offset costs for above programs, eliminate the guaranteed student loan program.
  • "College for Everyone" initiative
  • Increase federal funding of state education programs to lower the cost of tuition
  • Clarify, compared to current financial aid programs, requirements to get into his program
  • Use information the government already has on applicants to remove 2/3 of the FAFSA form (no clarification on how, i.e. opt in on 1040, as part of the FAFSA form, etc.)
  • $4,000 fully refundable, immediate (available at time of college enrollment) tax credit
  • FAFSA application through tax form
  • Increase teacher and principal pay
  • Increase teacher pay
  • Form a national school focused on training teachers
  • Reduce class sizes
  • Teacher service scholarships (scholarship repaid by working in a high-need field/location)
  • All schools for educators must be accredited
  • Improve teacher incentives (incentives determined with input from teachers)

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Break Down of the Issues - Part 1

Foreign Policy

In this and a series of post following (Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, part 5, part 6 and part 7) I will attempt to detail each leading Democratic candidate's position on a number of topics. For all of the information, I am pulling directly from each candidate's website (where information is available) and links will be provided to the relevant page. Where information is not available, I will pull information from recent (within the past few months) legislative action or speeches made by the candidates.

Hillary Clinton John Edwards Barack Obama
Link Link Link
Troop Involvement
  • Work with Joint Chiefs of Staff to determine troop draw down rate
  • Start pullout within 60 days
  • Some troops left (unclear where) to deal with Al-Qaeda
  • 40,000 to 50,000 troops removed immediately
  • 100% (almost, see below) withdrawn by January 2010
  • 3,000 to 5,000 left to protect US embassy and humanitarian workers
  • Withdraw 1 to 2 brigades (1,500 to 7,000 troops) removed per month
  • 100% (from Iraq, see below) by mid 2010
  • No permanent bases in Iraq
  • Some special forces troops left in Middle East to target Al-Qaeda
Diplomatic Efforts
  • Form coalition of our allies, other global powers, and Iraq's neighbors to:
    • Keep Iraq's neighbors from interfering with the Iraq civil war
    • Work with the UN to mediate between the Iraqi factions
    • Collect money to rebuild Iraq
  • Bring all involved nations together to stop sectarian violence
  • Convene a regional peace conference
  • Press Iraqi leaders to work together by showing we aren't going to stay
  • Work through the UN to secure agreements on Iraqi federalism and oil revenue sharing
  • Work with Iraq's neighbors to secure the borders, reconcile Iraqi factions, and fund rebuilding
  • Fund unspecified agencies to stabilize and rebuild.
  • Get money from the UN to help Iraqi refugees
  • "Clarify the Lack of Legal Foundation for the War" (to Congress)
  • Form an international group to get $2 billion to help countries in the region handle the millions of Iraqi refugees and protect them in Iraq.
  • No specific information on her site
  • Most direct references on the site only deal with Iranian leaders' anti-semitic comments
  • Recently supported a bill to declare the Iranian National Guard a terrorist organization
  • Link
  • Speak directly to Iran's leaders while working with a multi-national coalition
  • Increase threat of targeted sanctions
  • Offer incentives to start open talks
  • Direct talks with Russia and China to increase their pressure on Iran
  • Link
  • Condemns Iran's leadership's anti-semitic stance
  • Stop constant threats against Iran (voted against declaring IRG a terrorist organization)
  • Begin direct talks with Iranian leadership without preconditions
  • Offer incentives for ending the nuclear program, but increase sanctions if they don't
General Diplomacy
  • Link
  • Long involved in international affairs while in White House and Senate
  • Strongly pro-Israel
  • Link
  • Strengthen non-proliferation agreements; replace with an even stronger treaty
  • Continue working with North Korea through the six party talks
  • Encourage Russia to work with us on a number of the current international issues
  • Push for UN and NATO intervention in Darfur and Uganda
  • Link
  • Pushes for a two state solution in Israel/Palestine
  • (Re)Open consulates and embassies worldwide, specifically in Africa
  • Double funding to fight global poverty
  • Strengthen NATO
  • Secure loose nuclear material
  • Strengthen non-proliferation treaties through automatic sanctions

Thursday, January 10, 2008

New Hampshire Follow-up

Yeah, I know its a couple days late, but I listen to most of my news a day later, just to let it ferment a little. Congratulations to Senators Clinton and McCain. They both fought hard for their victories.

The thing that gets me about this result though, is that the pundits are all acting like it is a complete surprise. With idiotic statements like "No one predicted this would happen" it's no wonder most people would rather watch Howie Mandel smiling like a chipmunk. They themselves predicted exactly this outcome (on the Democratic side) not 10 days before. On the Republican side they were even more accurate. I too predicted exactly this (yay being vague) not 36 hours before voting started.

"Oh, but the polls didn't show this." Two problems with this: 1) Polls only reflect opinions up to the last time they were taken, they can't reflect 11th hour events, like the harsh, sexist media backlash at Hillary's emotional plea. 2) The polls weren't used properly. New Hampshire voters, if they are registered independents, can vote for either party. According to the voters themselves, independents who were Obama supporters, voted for McCain because they expected Obama would win without their vote, but they didn't want Romney to win.

Maybe pollsters need to learn a bit of physics. According to the Uncertainty Principal (sorry, I've been listening to A Brief History of Time so I have been hearing a lot about this along with a lot of other brain hurting things from Hawking), you can either know where a particle is or where it's going, never both at the same time because the act of observing changes the particle. I have the feeling polling does the same thing. You can't take a poll without affecting the data.

Anyway, to throw my hat back into the pundit ring, in South Carolina I see Obama narrowly over Clinton and Edwards (where those two wind up depends on whether or not Edwards's remark Tuesday made it down there...) and similar in Nevada (I will be better able to say something after the debate down there) with not much being decided until February 5th at the earliest. The problem with predicting this is that most Democrats I hear from would be happy with either candidate and so it comes down to last minute, "who do I like more right now?" voting.

The Republican side seems much more interesting, at least from a horse race and ideological point of view. In SC, I see Huckabee edging out McCain with Thomson finally starting to make a bit more than a half-hearted appearance (don't know if it is going to push him to a third place finish though). 9iul1an1 (Thank you Run From Fire, I hope you don't mind me borrowing this.) Will start blipping the radar, but not show much until a second or third place finish in Florida. I see McCain more likely than not winning in FL and if second goes to Huckabee, it will be a very interesting following couple weeks afterwards. What I see the Republican race boiling down to are conservative centrists coalescing around the McCain/9iul1an1 side of the party and the evangelical populists around Huckabee. The way this turns out could redefine the Republican party (or at least finish defining it) or possibly even lead to a cromulent third party.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

False identities, aliases, pen/stage names

Many of you have heard about the teenage girl, Megan, that took her own life after being rejected by a "boy" on MySpace. This profile actually turned out to be created by her one time friend and this friend's mother. In fact, the mother admitted to creating the profile in order to track the online activities of Megan. Unfortunately, the St. Charles, Missouri prosecutors felt they could not provide enough evidence to prove who made the last post that led to the suicide.

Personally, I believe there were a number of things that the prosecutors could prove, and they should have charged her with something. Now LA prosecutors have. They are charging her with defrauding MySpace by providing a false information.

To my great regret, as much as I would like to see this woman locked up for a very long time, I feel the moral requirement to defend her. What the prosecutors are charging her with is acting on her Constitutional right to anonymous free speech. Everyone deserves the right to create an anonymous account on any site they desire. This has been enshrined in political speech for centuries by political writers writing under pseudonyms. Stage actors can act under any name they want. And, in a great irony, from the above article, this right is strongly enshrined in the press:

Prosecutors in the U.S. attorney's office in Los Angeles, however, are exploring the possibility of charging Drew with defrauding the MySpace social networking website by allegedly creating the false account, according to the sources, who insisted on anonymity because they are not authorized to speak publicly about the case.

Emphasis added.

We should not give up the right to privacy. No matter how many trolls we have to put up with on Slashdot, no matter how much spam I (my filters) have to deal with, it is our right, and their actions cannot take that away from us. The woman should be prosecuted for what she did, but I will not give up my liberties just to get her charged with anything.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Politicians losing direction

Many of you have already heard about John Edwards's recent attack against Hillary. Hillary Clinton, in a town hall meeting Monday, was asked how she keeps going with all of the pressures of the campaign. Her response was "It's not easy." and went on to "tear up" (she appeared to get emotional, but I wouldn't so far as most media outlets are classifying it - you be the judge). Edwards, for no reason I can fathom, decided to attack this moment, to his apparent great detriment (current primary results at 8 PM CST have him with about 17%).

This sort of thing is exactly the sort of politics we need to move away from. Petty attacks, especially against the way someone makes and emotional plea, is guaranteed to turn more people away from you than encourage them to vote for you. What strikes me even more is that Edwards himself uses such emotional pleas in his campaign. Any time he evokes his father's life, or random middle class person he too gets emotional. This isn't a sign of weakness, it is often used to be a sign of connection to the subject you are talking about.

Unfortunately, in Hillary's response to the question she decided she should do similar attacks against her opponents, instead of answering the question. I have yet to see her talk about her position directly, at least in the past couple months, she only talks about what she thinks her opponents aren't.

Please people, give me something to vote FOR. I have enough things to vote against, and all the Democratic candidates share my views on these things, to one degree or another.

Companies going green

I just got my monthly electricity bill from Ameren UE and guess what. They are offering me the chance to go green, or as they are phrasing it "support clean renewable energy." How, do you ask. By signing up for "Pure Power". What this does is allow Ameren to buy "certificates" from its own green energy branch. No, I'm not getting electricity from renewable energy. Instead I get to pay for Ameren to charge another area (my state fixes Ameren's rates because it is a state sponsored monopoly) for the priviledge of getting green energy.

So let me go through this again... I pay extra for nothing, the people getting the energy are (likely) getting charged more, and Ameren gets a tax credit for supplying green energy. Oh, and if I were to put solar panels on my roof or something similar, Ameren won't buy back, or even give credits, for the extra energy I produce.

Update: News.com is running a much more in depth article on the FTC beginning to look into these tactics.

Update 2: Ameren is now awarding companies that give a lot to this Pure Power campaign, and the number two corporation listed: Ameren UE!

Monday, January 7, 2008

From the mouths of babes toddlers

I'm not sure who this is a stronger endorsement for, Barack Obama or Charlie Rose...

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Debate roundup

Well, the debates were yesterday and boy, what difference you can see in the parties. Completely ignoring Regan's "11th commandment" never to attack a fellow Republican, the candidates were constantly throwing little jabs at each other (or full bitch slaps to Romney on a regular basis). Ron Paul of course took the second hardest hits, barely being allowed to explain his point.

They also showed very effectively how little they know about what is going on. All of them (except for Ron Paul) said we have the best medical system in the world, completely ignoring and actual facts. Ron Paul at least admitted there was a problem, but his solution of letting the market handle the problems ignores the fact that the market has been in control of the problem and it doesn't work. The problem with letting the market control things is that the market is only worried about making money. If you don't have money to be taken, the market will ignore you and you won't be able to get health care.

The Democrats were almost a complete inverse. I wasn't able to watch the entire exchange (bedtime for the little one often interferes with these things...). They were often much more on topic, and there were many fewer snarky comments against each other (I don't remember either, but I wasn't there the whole time). My biggest complaint was that the moderators didn't ask the same questions of the Democrats as they asked of the Republicans. We already know what the candidates think of the war in Iraq; it is repeated back to us on a regular basis. The best question asked of the Republicans was, oddly enough, asked by President Bush. "What would be the underpinning of -- of -- of your decisions?" Huckabee, being the only Republican that actually answered the question, gave the reason that question matters: "because [policies] can change with each generation, with each year, with each circumstances . . . What is it that's deep inside of us that -- that guide us, that direct us, that show the framework of what we're going to do." I know what policies the Democrats (and Republicans) are pushing (largely), what I want to know is how the candidates view the world as this will show how the candidate will handle things that come up unexpectedly. Obama I feel I understand after reading his memior, but not so much the others.

Instead, Gibson took the easy way out. He focused on the things we have heard over and over: Iraq, nuclear terrorists (currently completely irrelevant and for which there is only one response), and a question that started out looking like a domestic policy question and instead changed into a question about change, which we hear about constantly in this campaign. That last question showed a very sharp divide between Obama/Edwards and Clinton/Richardson. Obama and Edwards view change as a change in the political process and the reduction of the lobbyists' power in Washington. Clinton views change as a different person and gender in the White House. Richardson, from how I understand his quote, doesn't think change can happen at all...

All told, I don't believe these debates will have changed much, especially on the Democrat side. On the Republican side of things, Huckabee continued to do well and may have strengthened his position in New Hampshire while Romney continues to fade. My personal prediction for the primary is a much tighter race between Obama and Clinton - it has been much too close to call for a while and I can't tell what, if anything, Edwards's move yesterday to support Obama against Clinton will do. On the Republican side, I'm pretty sure McCain is going to come in first, and a tight race for second between Romney and Huckabee, either way, Romney probably won't last much longer.

Transcripts are available on the New York Times website - Republican/Democrat.(free registration or bug-me-not may be required)

Friday, January 4, 2008


The caucuses are done and it's on to New Hampshire. Congratulations to Barack Obama on the victory, but the biggest news, in my opinion, is the turn out of the youth vote. This is what the country as a whole needs. Hopefully, the result of this caucus will encourage young people in every state to vote, both in their primaries and in the general election. In the past, people my age and younger didn't vote, I believe (from personal experience) because we were largely ignored in both the polling and the final result.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Almost right.

Ok, about three weeks ago I predicted that if the Fed lowered the interest rate we would see $100 a barrel oil. It looks like I was not quite right. Between a rise in inventories and Saudi Arabia hinting that the would ignore OPEC and send out more oil, futures had dropped to the mid $80s. I was about to be happily wrong.

That all changed today. According to Yahoo, oil has broken the $100 barrier. It did take a week and a half longer than I had expected, so I guess James Randi can keep his million for now...