Tuesday, October 31, 2006

No joke

On my drive to work this morning I saw a sewage pump truck (for septic tanks, porta-potties, etc.) with several W '04 stickers on the bumper.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Buying votes for a Democrat

In the Pink Texas pointed out an interesting Houston Chronicle article. It discusses potential vote-buying crimes being committed by Vietnamese-Americans implicitly supporting the Democratic candidate Hubert Vo, who is of Vietnamese descent. Their efforts stink of corruption in my opinion, and have no place in election politics:

  • The group, Vietnamese Community of Houston and Vicinity, has been running radio ads in Vietnamese "urging early votes at an Asian-American community center, and pointing out that $5 coupons available at the center can be used at a nearby mall."
  • The group sought feedback on the propriety of the ads, but then disregarded the suggestion to stop, instead seeking approval from "an official opinion." This sounds like a failed attempt at CYA, and they went up the chain hoping for approval from someone they could blame if they were later investigated.
  • Nonprofits with 501(c)3 tax status cannot make political endorsements, and the article suggests that the organization's support for get-out-the-vote is implicitly supporting the ethnically-aligned candidate. To avoid any accusations of misconduct they should have established a 501(c)4 and then explicitly promoted their preferred candidate.
The group has been doing a decent job of recovering at this point, cleaning up the mess before it taints the whole election. But they missed an opportunity to perform a well-targeted and proper GOTV effort, and they made their preferred candidate look bad.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Tolerance in the Muslim world

This article is interesting: Muslims celebrate Eid with calls for tolerance

It's not unlike the Christmastime urgings from churches in the US to help the poor and love thy neighbor: it's a nice sentiment, but falls on deaf ears because ultimately the followers are going to resort to the fundamentals that are spelled out for them in a clear, divisive manner. Despite the fact that the word Islam has its etymological roots in the word for "peace", the Qu'ran devotes a great deal of attention to what is not to be tolerated, along with the "appropriate" level of aggression to be levied for each offense.

A moral guide by counterexample provides little guidance for the fundamental virtues of peace, and thus peace will remain beyond the interests of fundamentalists from any religion designed this way.

Crude language from a Democrat

This remark shows insensitivity atypical to Democrats that is unbecoming and inexcusable:

A Democratic congressional candidate said at a recent campaign event that he was late because he was "on Injun time,"
He apologized quickly, and surprisingly one tribe did not even take offense:
Bobbi Webster, a spokeswoman for the Oneida Nation, said tribal members were not taking Kagen's comment as disrespectful and were not seeking an apology.

"Tribal members say that themselves," Webster said. "It is not uncommon to hear somebody come in late and say, 'Oh-oh. I am running on Indian time.'"
I can't help but think that they would have been very offended if a Republican had said such a thing. Political brotherhood should not allow a politician to become sloppy and disrespectful, and while I personally enjoy the freedoms of being politically incorrect, I never do so in a public forum.

Sample Ballots, Austin Bond Propositions

Here are the sample ballots for Travis County, listing the Special/General Election ballot items and the Local Elections ballot items.

Here is the list of Propositions for Austin municiple bonds which are on the aforementioned local elections ballot.

PSA - locations for early voting, flu shots

Early voting locations.

Flu shot clinic locator.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Good financial guidelines

I found this post from The Big Picture to be a fairly good overview of how to save money and invest for retirement. It appears geared towards the middle class population not living in a local housing bubble. The rules are fairly simple to follow, and presume that you already have discipline and simply need guidance or affirmation. Keeping up with the Jones is not an option for most people who wish to retire comfortably.

I already follow these rules fairly well but I need to correct two deviations I've made. The first car I bought was a new one, and while I paid cash it was still not financially responsible; it was a personal decision that was worth the cost to me then, but I hope to not feel the need to do this again. Second, I have waaaaay too much % of my stock portfolio in my current employer. This is more a side effect of selling almost every other holding I had, but when I reinvest I need to balance better.

Their agenda, spelled out for them

Digby has an excellent post about the supposed diasporic migrations of value voters away from the GOP. Some feel that the Democrats can attract these voters, and I've seen very specific discussions about how the Dem focus on such topics as reducing poverty and environmental ills are all resonant of the teachings of Jesus Christ.

Digby warns however that "they are after all, conservatives." He quotes an interesting Washington Post piece that demonstrates why the value voters have so strictly latched on to a set of principles embodied by the GOP. These folks don't see the Democratic platform values as a threat, and here's why:

"I definitely don't like the widening of the agenda, because it muddies the water," said the Rev. Michael Haseltine, pastor of the 2,000-member Maranatha Assembly of God Church in Forest Lake, Minn.

"Be good stewards of the environment? Sure, but how? These tree-huggers and anti-hunters think it's terrible to kill animals. Oppose poverty? Sure, but what's the best way to do it? We can't solve everybody's problems for them," he said. "Family and life issues -- abortion, sexuality -- they're much more clear from the biblical standpoint."
The issues they focus on are clearly spelled out for them and require no thinking. This appeals to evangelicals, with infinite trust in the Bible, who don't wish to even try to explain their moral stance on its own merits. The GOP has aligned itself with a fundamentally unassailable, undebatable platform that must be the envy of modern think-tanks.

Digby explains that while we will happily caucus with others whose interests match ours on specific policy/legislation, we will not approach or embrace the evangelical movement aggressively because of their unbending, unthinking stance on gay marriage, stem cell research, etcetera. His post is entitled "Liberal Intolerance Of Intolerance", and helps explain my profile: "I try to be as open-minded as possible, but the only thing I will not tolerate is intolerance."

Saturday, October 21, 2006

The rules of moshing

This isn't exactly relevant to much of what I post, but I know some readers who would enjoy it as much as I did: the rules of moshing. It mostly makes sense, but I have to say that moshes I've seen make no efforts to entertain the onlookers, unless you enjoy a stray boot to the head.

And I don't know about the "form of dancing" aspect. This isn't Capoeira. Moshers, at least in Austin, are usually thick fratboys bruisers or sturdy outcast goths, and they explore their mutual animosity in the pit.

BTW, Capoeira has an interesting history. From what I understand, it was basically a form of martial arts disguised as a tribal dance form, allowing African slaves in Brazil to pass along training of self defense without their masters' suspicion. It is a vigorous, elastic form of exercise that is becoming quite popular in the US; it's a little bit like t'ai chi with an attitude, yoga for non-yuppies, or west coast swing for closet metrosexuals.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Kinky has a good health-care plan

I'm admittedly impressed by Kinky's detailed policy statement on health care in Texas, regardless of it having been modelled after another state (knowing who to emulate is an important part of success). Jobsanger has a summary and a link to Kinky's PDF.

I've got some questions though:

  • On CHIP:
    • Kinky's statement says: "Because TexasCare will take time to implement, Friedman said he would call for the immediate and full restoration of funding for the state’'s Children Health Insurance Program, which has seen dramatic budget cuts since 2003."
    • Jobsanger says Kinky plans to: "Restore full funding for the state's Children Health Insurance Program, until TexasCare is up and running."
    • But financing CHIP earns matching federal dollars, so we've been losing "free" money by not investing more into this program. Is Kinky suggesting CHIP is a good stopgap measure or an important ongoing part of TexasCare?
  • On reproductive health:
    • Reproductive health education and access to affordable prenatal care is a crucial first step in ensuring the health of our state's children, but I missed any mention of this topic.
    • Likewise family planning is an important part of helping ensure children are raised in a supportive environment both financially and emotionally. Does Kinky have a plan to ensure people aren't discriminated against for seeking Plan B at Walgreens or emergency contraceptive at a hospital? And for supporting the planned part of Planned Parenthood, and other means of reducing abortion? Somebody needs to publicly acknowledge that pro-lifers and pro-choicers do have one thing in common, which is that we all strongly wish to reduce abortion rates, and there are many things we can do together to accomplish this.
  • On emergency room overcrowding:
    • It seems to me to be commonly agreed that emergency room overcrowding is exacerbated by families with no health care (some times to avoid issues of legality) that have no access to preventative care. Does he feel his plan helps address this?
    • This overcrowding includes women who go into labor and have had little to no interaction with an OBGYN or prenatal care, have little to no records, and are not prepared for the challenge of birthing. Again, education and preventative care are both crucial here.
    • Lastly this problem of ER overcrowding has been identified as resulting from unavailability of family practitioners in off-hours and weekends. Is this something caused by the health care industry, insurance industry, or something that the state can address?
Okay, I'm done. I'm pleased that there's a plan from Kinky that I can attempt to analyze, since his platform has been very general (unique, but unspecific) on most topics. This should definitely get others talking more.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Endorsements for Gov. from two Chronicles

The Austin Chronicle endorsed Chris Bell today, despite tremendous local energy (initially) for Kinky that had me considering that possibility. From In the Pink Texas: "When Kinky (aka ‘Best Citizen!’) can’t even get a nod from the hometown socialists, it’s high time to pull out."

Here's the Chronicle excerpt they quoted:

Like many Chronicle readers, we initially welcomed the anti-Bush novelty of maverick Kinky Friedman. But however entertaining as a candidate, if Friedman were actually elected, the joke would be on everyday Texans. He has no real interest in the crucial details of governance. He has chosen positions out of whim and ignorance (such as martial law on the border, or quickly dissipating a budget “surplus” visible only to him). Along the campaign trail, he has made no effort to learn anything new or from his mistakes. (The last denizen of the Mansion with Friedman’s Know-Nothing approach to governance is now in the White House.)
Two reminders:
  1. Kinky voted for Bush in 2004. In fact, in accord with his image as an outsider to the political process this was his only vote in the past 12 years. He didn't even vote on the Texas constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, despite claiming to being open and accepting of others. He had power as a voter and neglected to use it, and now he wants the power of Governor?
  2. Early voting starts next Monday, Oct. 23.

I feel like this some times...

This cartoon made me smile :)

I'm a contrarian investor because largely I'm a contrarian person. I see the weird side of things. I've always felt somewhat outcast; I don't see others as being above or below me, but rather sideways on a different plane. My paranoia and distrust of giddy group-think makes it hard for me to want to participate in the recent market rally. It's kind of like taking pride in being a member of the high school chess club instead of being the dunce who is dating the popular cheerleader. Or is this just rationalization?

I'm mostly cash, aside from a few heavy positions I'm comfortable with being quite long on. I'm still waiting for the market adjustment, a.k.a. "reversion to the mean" to give me a chance to buy stocks at better valuations. I plan to rebuy some that I got stopped out on like MOT, and others that never dropped enough to be attractive (I waited in vain for AAPL to hit $50, and it came within $0.16. Now it's up almost 60%. But those who beat themselves up over hindsight are the type to have bought into the dot-com bubble at its peak.)

Over the past year I have started to reinvest in a few select areas that I think have long-term potential for very solid growth. I'm up only 0.01%, thanks to two strong positions (up 5% and 17% this year) and two weak positions (down 10% and 6% this year).

I think of my mistakes as the cost of education, and I need to work on my timing. Like the Bear in the cartoon, I'm a little too eager to call a downturn. When I lose, it's by buying too early on the downside and selling too early on the upside (or setting limit orders that are too conservative/pessimistic). But that's far better in my opinion than buying too late on the upside and selling too late when a stock tumbles. My approach would not have gotten me burned on the dot-com bubble (had I any money then), but it would not have gotten rich either.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

In bed?

I ate at a Vietnamese restaurant tonight and had an interesting cookie fortune. Well, the fortune wasn't interesting, but what I found on the back in place of the usual lottery numbers was:

Vote Nov. 7 for Prop 4
Invest in Austin's Creative Economy.
Sounds nice to me! Austin needs to invest in attractions like this to support the illusion that we're not really in Texas. This will help bring jobs via businesses who know they can't develop a local branch without local talent. For example, Austin is developing more of a movie industry each year - with a very independent twist - that appears to be bringing money to this city without diluting its image. Supporting local arts and cultural facilities helps this and may have immeasurable ancillary benefits.

Update: This article backs what I suggested. A $1 million investment by the city has brought $650 million to the local economy from more than 20 feature films shot here. The article goes on to discuss how the city's Austin Studios would benefit from the bond package:
Of the $31.5 million bond, Austin Studios would receive $5 million to fund basic upgrades like full soundproofing and air-conditioning for two of the five stages, improved security and safety and state-of-the-art digital infrastructure.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Texas leads nation in gay parents?!

This article is quite a shocker. Of course I'd not be surprised if Texas also leads the nation in intolerance of gay parents as a healthy family unit.

La-la-la-la-la-la-la-la

Ahh, they didn't disappoint. The "nutty evangelicals" are questioning the timing of a book that reveals how they are simply pawns to the GOP. They'd shoot the messenger before they would reflect on their own poor decisions; they're suggesting that the timing of this book reveals its political motives more so than any inherent truth.

Not afraid to be right

Dems shouldn't be afraid to embrace their "passion and anger" as described by Glenn Greenwald.

Monday, October 16, 2006

We can't make it here any more

by James Mcmurtry:

Friday, October 13, 2006

"Book: Bush aides called evangelical backers 'nuts'"

An interesting article from Dallas Morning News:

A new book by a former White House official says President Bush's top political advisers privately ridiculed evangelical supporters as "nuts" and "goofy" while embracing them in public and using their votes to help win elections.
Evangelicals aren't likely to start voting for other parties. But they may stop voting for the GOP, and that would be good enough. This article brings into question the sincerity of a Senate bill that Papa Hippie warned me about: S 3957 (from Talk to Action, a site I'll have to revisit).

But ultimately I have great faith in the willful ignorance and reliable stupidity of those who have allowed themselves to be played this hard for so long. I don't expect this revelation to affect the GOP's base.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

He's certainly full of it

On KVUE news this evening the reporters discussed Kinky's response to Chris Bell's suggestion that they team up to remove Perry. Bell knew he would be flatly rejected and was trying to make it appear that Kinky is clearly supporting the notion of Perry succeeding in his reelection bid. Kinky said something about being so angry he was squirting out of both ends. The anchors discussed and the female anchor said, "that's a Kinky zinger... and he's certainly full of it. I mean them!"

Bell vs. Kinky discussion

I tried responding to a post on Jobsanger about Bell & Kinky, but he's moderating his site very strictly now and I doubt my comment will be accepted. [Update: The comment was accepted along with several other interesting ones, and the discussion should be interesting]. So here it is:

I think Bell is trying to capitalize on Kinky's popularity with some liberals (esp. the younger generations) by choosing this time to say, "Okay, it's been a fun game but let's get serious now." The thing is, whether or not it's warranted it has recently become apparent that people are having a hard time taking Kinky seriously as a politician. This is Kinky's goal in fact - wanting to be seen as an outsider - but Bell is calculating on a "come to Jesus" moment at the polls where people vote with their gut on who can truly run our state best. Who that person is of course is still up for discussion, but Bell thinks it's him and is hoping that people will flake on Kinky despite his sustained poll numbers.

I think what this message shows is that Bell thinks now is a good time to siphon voters who have tuned into the race, plan on voting, but may have a last-minute change of heart. There's no way Bell could bring out the vote alone. So this move of his, while manipulative and typical of a seasoned politician, is not a sign of desperation but a sign of calculation.

What I find most odd is that Bell is essentially riding on Kinky's coattails to reach normally apathetic voters, and that a Dem is the "gut choice" instead of the brain choice. Kinky may tickle the brain with his refreshing political incorrectness, but Bell is such a boring policy wonk that you can't help but feel in your gut that he's got an answer for any of our state's current/potential problems - and answers are something which Kinky has had trouble with (or no interest in) delivering.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

"Faithful Republicans", by Digby

Digby has a great post on the evangelical support for Republicans, and I agree with his sentiment: don't count on evangelicals to be dismayed by piss-poor party leadership over the Foley scandal. They've rationalized their support for the GOP in so many contradictory ways that it's clear this isn't going to change their feelings. That's why they're called the "base", or ironically, the "party faithful."

In my mind there is simply nothing good to be had for America by allowing the GOP to stay in power, and thanks to the GOP's repeated, catastrophic fuck-ups many folks are tuning into this reality. They can't be trusted to do anything right.

This election will be very interesting. We'll get to see just how many unbending crazies there are in this country.

Holy Crap this is cool - and safe for work

Some days it seems the Internet doesn't have many surprises left in it. I've been trawling around its dark corners for quite a while, trying to find others with as quirky a sense of humor as mine. Sometimes I come across unsavory sites, but rarely am I shocked. While others shielded their eyes and put their therapists on speed dial, the first time I saw Goatse I laughed out loud for having been caught off guard by a fake link from a subversive poster on Slashdot. (incidentally this became such a common prank that Slashdot changed its format slightly to mitigate malicious use of their forums).

But today I found something truly cool, a sort of visual zeitgeist composed of a sea of floating bubbles of thoughts containing the phrase "I feel," collected from blog posts across the world. Play with it.

Monday, October 02, 2006

This made me laugh out loud

Take a quick peek:

http://pinkdome.com/archives/2006/09/mandatory_sensi.html

"Sturdy degenerates", or how I stopped worrying and love the fertile lower class

I get tired of getting crap for not wanting to have kids by people who believe that is it the duty of intelligent people to reproduce or else the "stupid, poor and exceedingly fertile" lower class will take over. You can almost hear the word "colored" whistling through their forked tongues. Today I read an article about how a Republican is actually advocating eugenics, an extremely questionable act of eliminating male and female reproductive rights for the "less desirable" elements of society.

Eugenics is thoroughly eviscerated in this interesting paper from Harvard: An Imagined Reality: Malthusianinsm, Neo-Malthusianism and Population Myth

Scrolling down to the section headed "Eugenics" reveals an interesting history of how eugenics has largely been favored by the wealthy to suppress the lower class. It starts by discussing the ironic birth of eugenics from the study of evolution.

A R Wallace, who CO-discovered the process of evolution with Darwin, argued in an essay, The Action of Natural Selection on Man :

    At the present day it does not seem possible for natural selection to act in any way so as to secure the permanent advancement of morality and intelligence for it is indisputably the mediocre, if not the low, both as regards morality and intelligence who succeed best in life and multiply fastest.

The article then points out the distasteful alignment this has with Hitler's "final solution":

Eugenics held great appeal for influential people on both sides of the Atlantic. A prominent eugenist in Germany wrote,

    Because the inferior are always numerically superior to the better, the former would multiply so much faster - if they have the same possibility to survive and reproduce - that the better necessarily would be placed in the background. Therefore a correction has to be made to the advantage of the better. The nature (sic) offers such a correction by exposing the inferior to difficult living conditions which reduce their number. Concerning the rest the nature (sic) does not allow them to reproduce indiscriminately, but makes a relentless selection according to their strength and health conditions [Hitler, cited in Bondestam 1980].

The 'correction' he offered to nature's lethal ways was called the final solution. Adolf Hitler included among others, Jews, communists, homosexuals and gypsies in his grand design.

The isolation of a socio-economic class is what this Republican from Charleston ultimately seeks. He is of the persuasion that policies such as these are well and good:
Let us note that the victims of all this 'scientific' hysteria were the weak, the powerless and the helpless. That the eugenist utopia continues to exert a powerful attraction, despite being shorn of its scientific halo, is evident in even current legislation and practice; regarding, for example, the introduction of hormonal implant contraceptives in the US. Women on welfare, with either a criminal record or a record of 'child neglect', must have Norplant implanted in order to be eligible for welfare. Thus the vast majority of women subjected to Norplant are blacks or hispanics [Srinivas 1992].
There's a very interesting segue into discussions of reproductive rights and personal choice, and the article presents an interesting history of the resistance to birth control as part of its overall analysis of population control ideologies.
Birth control propaganda was initially aimed at middle class women who sought to limit fertility. The philosophy was that it was physically possible and morally desirable for husbands and wives to control the size of their families; and that the ultimate decision to have one or more children should be made by parents and not by tradition, church or state. Soon, however, the ambit was widened....

[Margaret Sanger's] primary aim was to limit what she perceived as the excessive fertility of the poor.... "Large families", Sanger wrote, "are associated with poverty, toil, unemployment, drunkenness, cruelty, fighting, jails; the small ones with cleanliness, leisure, freedom, light, space, sunshine" [Greer 1984]. Her most famous book was the 1920 publication Women and the New race, an orthodox tract of eugenics : "First stop the multiplication of the unfit. This appeared the most important and greatest step towards race betterment."
The demographic of eugenics supporters has the same suspicious imbalance as the paucity of gays or blacks who identify with Republicans. It's truly no surprise to me that it was a Republican speaking recently in favor of eugenics; in contrast you can see the (D) ringing from this response by his superior in the state senate:

"What Larry Shirley needs to talk about is getting City Council to provide some recreational facilities and activities for these kids and creating an atmosphere conducive to a normal society," said [Robert] Ford, a former councilman [and current state senator].

"We've got all sorts of things for kids to do in my neighborhood in West Ashley. They need that downtown. But he's upset that kids aren't listening to their parents. So what's new?"

...

"Hasn't he heard, 'It takes a village'?"
Perhaps that's why I currently don't plan to have kids. I'm too tired of trying to imbue others with values they should have learned from their parents. But selective breeding of Republicans appears to have eliminated the capacity for empathy.