Thursday, October 23, 2008

A Feature, Not A Bug

Too many reports to ignore that maybe Barack Obama's vaunted fundraising operation is steeped in fraud. Specifically, the allegation is that the donate-by-credit card option on the Obama website is intentionally disabled to allow fraudulent donations.

If you've bought anything online you've probably dealt with the AVS, or Address Verification Service, which is a check to be sure that your name matches the card number and your address and zip code match the account information as well. Many vendors also insist on the three-digit CVV code on the back to confirm you have the real card in your hand when you donate.

The Obama website has none of this, which is part of the reason that the Obama Campaign has accepted donations from such well-known figures of history and fiction as Good Will & Doodad Pro, Adolf Hitler, OJ Simpson, Nodda Realperson, John Galt, Henry Reardon (those last two for the Ayn Rand fans in the audience) and the best "asdf". In some cases these fictional donors have given tens of thousands of dollars in small increments.

The reason for small increments is that donations of less than $200 do not have to be reported to the Federal Election Commission with the same stringency as larger donations. You do not need to record a name, address and occupation of the donor. If you wanted to send millions of dollars to a candidate, the easiest way to do it would be to do so in $200 increments. You could pay someone $10 an hour, enter a payment a minute, and funnel $12,000 an hour into a campaign, limited only by the ability of your keyboardist to invent new names. Quite frankly, you could just automate the process with a large enough database of names and fictional addresses and do it 24/7/365. The personal limit to any individual campaign is $2300 in the primaries and $2300 in the general election.

The disabling of the fraud-protection system got me thinking, though. There are three ways this could work out for the Obama Campaign.

One, it allows foreign donors to contribute, and it's not as if the man is unpopular overseas. Nice that they have an opinion but taking their money is a federal crime, I believe. The fact that so many Obama donations during the primaries were odd-denomination donations (dollars and cents) makes one suspicious that the donated amounts were in Euros or other currency helpfully converted to dollars by the magic of Visa.

Two, it allows people to use lists of valid credit-card numbers to "donate" to Obama in a fraudulent fashion -- which has happened.

Three, if the Obama campaign was working in conjunction with a fraudulent front company to do its credit card processing, fraud becomes a feature and not a bug.

Usually, if your credit card is misused by someone else your bank will reimburse you for the loss, and attempt to ding the merchant for the difference. If there was an intermediary organization that could a) do the credit card billing for Obama and b) had access to foreign cash (or just cash in general over and above what could be legally donated), the front company could reimburse "fraudulent" charges to people whose cards were used wrongly...and never attempt to get the money back from the Obama Campaign.

Let's say Ima Republican shows up with a $2300 charge on her credit card to "Obama Campaign Services". She reports it as a fraudulent charge, and Obama Campaign Services refunds her the money. Well, if OCS is a front bank with its own source of money, then it doesn't have to go after the Obama Campaign itself to make good. It just accepts the loss and moves on. The Obama Campaign is never asked by Obama Campaign Services, its credit-card processor, to repay the money. Assuming OCS has sacks of cash available, the more fraud the better it is for the Obama Campaign, as long as it doesn't get caught too often. OCS is there to take the hits, pushing otherwise-illegal money to the Obama campaign no matter if it's fraudulent or not.

Sounds a little paranoid, I know. But when I hear about Democratic lawmakers circling my 401k like sharks, paranoia becomes a reasonable way to do business. I know next-to-nothing about credit card processing, this is entirely conjecture on my part. But the fraudulent activity is not conjecture. it's something to be concerned about, especially when it would be very easy to make your website fraud-resistant the way the Hillary Clinton and John McCain websites are.

But Sarah Palin has new clothes, so I guess all of this doesn't matter.

UPDATE: Apparently Chase Paymentech is the company that does the CC processing, and they are a reputable firm. Other people have pointed out that the Obama campaign may batch-process a days' worth of credit card payments and automatically drop obviously fraudulent or illegal contributions -- except "Good Will" has made actual donations.

All I can say is that when you're running for President and trying to raise money through credit cards it's occasionally good to have "The Senator from MBNA" for your wingman. Is Joe Biden worth it? If you're in good with the CC companies he's worth (literally) millions.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

On Deterrence and Perception

I know something about deterrence, both sides of it actually. Now that I am 6'5" and slightly over 250lbs, I represent one defintion of deterrence. My first CHL instructor, a former Green Beret and UN Peacekeeper in the Sinai, told me flat out, "Nobody is ever going to mess with you Darren, not even drunk. You're just too big." I find this to be true. I haven't had anyone in my adult life make anything approaching an aggresive physical move toward me. I know one side of deterrence in this way: I intimidate, without trying.

The other side of deterrence I know from my childhood. I was tall, but not particularly wide. I grew fast and was skinny, and I stood out among my peers. I had some kind of inborn block against beating the crap out of people who deserved it. I have thought a lot about this, and for me I believe it came down to a fear of losing control, of abandoning myself to fury and really trying to hurt someone else. I have subsequently gotten over this concern (it's amazing what having a wife and children will do), but growing up and being the new kid as often as I was, I had people getting aggressive with me all the time.

Now, you may wonder, why does this trip down memory lane have much relevance this political season? Well, Joe Biden made the discussion of deterrence and lack thereof relevant with some comments he made in Seattle, as reported by ABC News:

"Mark my words," the Democratic vice presidential nominee warned at the second of his two Seattle fundraisers Sunday. "It will not be six months before the world tests Barack Obama like they did John Kennedy. The world is looking. We're about to elect a brilliant 47-year-old senator president of the United States of America. Remember I said it standing here if you don't remember anything else I said. Watch, we're gonna have an international crisis, a generated crisis, to test the mettle of this guy."

Amazingly, Joe Biden and I agree on something, though strangely enough when I proposed this a week ago to some committed Obamatons, they said I was absolutely insane. I said that the courage of John McCain was beyond question, but that when Obama talked tough he was unconvincing which meant that he was going to be challenged more than McCain would.

While some of you intuitively "get" this, there are no doubt some readers who will say, "No, now, the practice of international diplomacy is sophisticated! You can get degrees in it, it doesn't come down to something as silly as schoolyard bully calculations!" I agree with that to a certain point. Democracies are often complex, messy and shot through with divergent groups with divergent ends they wish to see met. Even as august a figure as the President of the United States may only be speaking for some portion of the population, and if the President gets ahead of the populace they may jerk his or her chain back into line.

Not so with totalitarian governments. Totalitarian states are built around the personalities of their leaders and inevitably end up taking on the personality of those who run the Cult of Personality. Positions that are complex and may arise from a confluence of different interests in a democracy become much simpler when you're a dictator. If you don't like cheese, you can outlaw cheese and the dairy lobby can't say boo. If there is a warship off the coast of your nation, you can personally weigh the benefits and risks to harassing it or leaving it be. Totalitarian states are the ones most likely to reflect the characteristics of their leaders and to act in a schoolyard fashion.

Should Obama become President, it's not the democracies who are likely to give him trouble. He could run for EU President in 2009 and win that, too, most likely. It is the totalitarian governments (Venezuela, Iran, Russia and to a lesser extent North Korea and China) that will be the most likely state actors to contrive a conflict with Obama, to measure the man and see what can be gotten away with in the next four years. And lest we forget, there are totalitarian non-state actors like Al Qaeda who will be only too happy to see George W. Bush disappear over the horizon, if for no other reason than he would respond to attack without hesitation, and would pursue an attack rather than making a show of aggression like Clinton. They, too, might choose a confrontation with Obama to see if their campaign has produced a more malleable US President.

What's interesting is that Senator Biden didn't stop at saying that we WILL get into a conflict in the first six months of Obama's term (if he's elected). That would be too easy for Joe, he continued, somewhat ominously:

"I can give you at least four or five scenarios from where it might originate," Biden said to Emerald City supporters, mentioning the Middle East and Russia as possibilities. "And he's gonna need help. And the kind of help he's gonna need is, he's gonna need you - not financially to help him - we're gonna need you to use your influence, your influence within the community, to stand with him. Because it's not gonna be apparent initially, it's not gonna be apparent that we're right."

Curiouser and curiouser. I added the emphasis, and that's the interesting part. The guarantee that our nation will be plunged into crisis is garden-variety and patented Joe Biden Stupid (TM), but the idea that the influence of left-wing idealogues who come to an Obama-Biden fundraiser will be needed to counteract what appears to be boneheaded moves by then-President Obama is interesting.

Does this imply that the nominally docile Obama will display a level of aggression in response to a threat that would be off-putting to the granola-crunchers that paid for his campaign? Or will the lefties be drafted to explain why doing nothing in the face of crisis (which seems to me to be more likely) is the "right" thing to do? Either is likely, but in any event Biden is basically saying that they won't get the first one right, at least in the eyes of the public, and they'll need political cover from Obama supporters after the election. Biden implies that there will either be an overreaction or an underreaction, but not that they'll handle the situation in what is clearly the right way.

Makes you wonder about Obama's judgment in choosing this clown as his running mate. Sarah Palin is regarded by many on the left as a stuffed skirt with no intelligence and a drag on the GOP ticket they're thankful for, but so far she's
energized the GOP base (check)
given the highest-rated acceptance speech in VP history (check)
given SNL the highest ratings in 14 years (check)
draws crowds that equal or exceed Obama's (check)

What has Joe Biden done? Besides prove himself unable to count to four?

Joe Biden will be 66 years old a couple of weeks after the election. Ask yourself this: If Joe Biden becomes demented and starts confabulating (making up things to cover the gaps in his memory), how long will it be before anyone notices?

I think Joe Biden would have to agree that the wisest choice would be to avoid the test, avoid the need for political cover from leftists, and just elect John McCain.

Update: When you get schooled by Sarah Palin, whom you disdain, what does that make you? Seriously, watch the video. It's worth a smile.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Music to CPR By

Saw this at the WSJ Health Blog and had to mention it.

Turns out that most people who do CPR don't compress the chest fast enough to help. The recommended rate is 100 beats per minute, but it seems too fast and wears you out.

The answer seems to be providiing appropriate theme music, which, ironically is Stayin' Alive by the Bee Gees.

At 103 beats per minute, if you can keep up with the Bee Gees you can do CPR at the proper rate. Kind of turns saving lives into Guitar Hero, but when 15 medical students were allowed to listen to music (namely, this song) they could do 109 BPM, and five weeks later, even without the music they were still at 113 BPM. All of this will be presented for the edification of us all at ACEP, the American College of Emergency Physicians meeting October 27-30 in Chicago, or as it is known for those three days, "The Best Town In Which To Have A Public Cardiac Arrest."

Friday, October 17, 2008

Two Debates and one Plumber

Well, I didn't post anything about the second debate between John McCain & Barack Obama because it was so dull I was afraid I would lose the meager readership I have simply by mentioning it. Nothing happened, literally. People asked questions that the candidates didn't answer, and many talking points were repeated. About the only thing I can say is that I'm glad there weren't 9 more "Town Hall" formats scheduled, and Tom Brokaw has strangely become much more compelling in text than in real life.

Bob Schieffer moderated debate #3, which is the first one that John McCain really showed up for. He was animated and engaged, a little too wordy at some points (stepping on his own points on occasion), but much better than in previous debates. He took it to Obama on the over-the-top accusations of John Lewis, and the best line of the night was "I'm not George W. Bush. If you wanted to run against him you should have run four years ago."

As an aside, while I liked McCain getting on Obama about the falsehoods and distortions, McCain lacks the carpe jugulum (Latin - seize the neck) attitude that his running mate displays pretty well. He made his attacks but did not press them. He landed blows but refused to try to sit on Obama's rhetorical chest and continue pounding until Obama could not reply. It's just not in him, I guess. I have heard it is a generational thing, but either way McCain keeps letting things like Obama's "cut taxes for 95% of taxpayers" line float past unmolested.

The star of the third debate, who wasn't even present, was undoubtedly Joe the Plumber, better known as Joe Wurzelbacher, a Ohioan who Barack Obama had the misfortune to stumble upon and engage in conversation while being videotaped.

Joe the Plumber asked Obama if he was really going to raise taxes on him, Joe was considering purchasing the small plumbing business where he works but was worried that the increased taxes would make it unprofitable to work beyond the 10-12 hours a day he already put in.

Obama, foolishly, was honest. As quoted at Fox News:

"It's not that I want to punish your success. I just want to make sure that everybody who is behind you, that they've got a chance for success too," Obama responded. "My attitude is that if the economy's good for folks from the bottom up, it's gonna be good for everybody ... I think when you spread the wealth around, it's good for everybody."

Oops. In one comment, Barack Obama may have undone four months of careful tacking to the center on economic issues. We may have a problem or even a series of problems in the economy right now, but when one of the people that could be President starts speaking in language dripping with socialist overtones I believe Americans will start to listen a little more critically.

Sensing an unforced error, John McCain mentioned "Joe the Plumber" nine times in the third debate, with Obama forced to mention him twice. The election has a poster child, Ladies and Gentlemen.

Now what makes this infuriating to me is that immediately the left side of the blogging community and the media set to "vetting" Joe the Plumber as if he did anything other than ask a question of Barack Obama.

Within 48 hours we now know that Joe Wurzelbach's actual name is Samuel J. Wurzelbach, he is twice-divorced and does not have a plumber's license, though he does work for a plumber. His home address has been published, his tax lein (filed in 2007) publicized and his local plumber's union notified, lest he actually work as a plumber somewhere near where he lives. He has cameras all over him, and he doesn't have to worry about any of his secrets being revealed. If you can find it online, it's going to be revealed about him.

The real question I have is why Joe the Plumber is getting the third degree? And why is the Obama campaign so completely silent on the public strip-and-cavity search that its allies are performing to a "civilian", a voter? He's just a guy, or he was before he committed the unpardonable act of making Barack Obama flub a question in front of a camera.

I see this as tremendously not-helpful for Barack Obama, because it doesn't bode well for free speech or even criticism should he become President. Apparently the rule is that if you question Barack Obama or his policies, then you make yourself the subject of inquiry. The question to be answered is not, "What is Barack Obama's reply?" but rather, "What makes you think you have standing to ask The One a question?"

At this point, would you want Barack Obama to come up to you and say, "Hi, do you have any questions I can answer?" In essence, he would be asking you if you think it's worth your privacy in case he gets stumped. Joe didn't even set himself up to be a rival of Barack Obama, Barack came to his house and because Joe didn't kiss the ring and move along, he gets both barrels from the press and the left wing.

The vitriol directed toward Joe the Plumber is pretty similar to that directed toward Sarah Palin, in that neither of them were considered to have sufficient stature to question Barack Obama's policies or conclusions. There was a collective, "Who the hell are YOU?" response, as if Joe or Sarah sat down at the cool kids' table in junior high school unbidden. What I find so interesting is that it is the alleged egalitarians and Friends of The Common Man, the leftists, who are the most incensed when an unelite person skewers one of the anointed.

Well, I have a tiny little soapbox, but when the press comes calling I will stand up and say, "I am Joe the Plumber." Somebody has to stop this kind of thing. We need to get in the habit of making our questions and criticisms known, so that maybe an potential Obama government will worry about trying to stifle dissent.

Polls are tightening. If you're of a GOP or conservative bent, keep your powder dry and be sure you vote. This is far from over.

Friday, October 03, 2008

My VP Debate Wrap-Up

After some consideration, this is my conclusion about the debate.

Joe Biden clearly and convincingly defeated George W. Bush in this debate, President Bush being absent. He also forcefully stated that as VP under Obama, in the face of economic crisis he would not pursue the tax policies of his opponent, John McCain, then went on to list the things he would not be in favor of cutting despite the fact that the bailout bill added another trillion or so to the national debt. He would "slow down" foreign aid commitments, which he later described as vital to winning in Afghanistan. As Bill Hobbs points out, this is "slowing down" a doubling of US foreign aid amounting to $25 billion a year -- against an annual deficit of hundreds of billions.

Palin dodged some questions, the wisest dodge was on the issue of the Unitary Executive and the role of the VP, which is an inside-baseball topic of interest primarily to Con Law professors and something she likely knows virtually nothing about. Joe Biden put on his Con Law professor hat and proceeded to quote the wrong part of the Constitution regarding the role of the VP as Executive Branch. "Everyone should know that," he said. I question whether "everyone should know" something that's patently wrong. Article I, Section 3 refers to the office of Vice-President, it is the part of the Constitution dealing with legislative structure and function. Article II has to do with the Executive.

Joe Biden was fully in command of the facts he made up out of whole cloth during the debate. He showed a far greater range of familiarity with his own fabrications than his opponent. In this regard, he was clearly the winner, as shown by focus group polling from Katie's Restaurant in Wilmington, DE, which has been closed since 1990. He showed boldness by contradicting the Obama website on sitting down President-to-President with Achmedinejad without preconditions. He also showed boldness by contradicting himself on the issue of coal plants. Speaking untruth to power has never had a bolder advocate. In my opinion, Joe Biden is never more convincing and genuine than when seamlessly weaving made-up facts into his statements, and I believe that is an important qualification when choosing a Democratic Vice-Presidential candidate.

But really, I think Palin came out ahead. She lied less, for one, and she's authentic in a way Joe hasn't been for a couple of decades. Considering that this is her first national debate and his third run for the Presidency (this time as VP), he didn't blow her out and she was able to score on him in her vicious-yet-nice way, which is a true political gift. She did not defend McCain as well as I would have liked, a more experienced politician might have seen more opportunities and I can't help but believe that she still could have done better. Nevertheless, she did exceptionally well. Like I said in the liveblog, they need to come up with another word for "maverick", my personal feeling is that the word has attracted as many people as it's going to attract. Drop it, or use it once and then use a synonym.

It didn't change much for the race, but it changed a lot for Sarah Palin. You can bet she'll subscribe to Foreign Affairs and, if she loses, spend the next four years getting the experience and knowledge to run on her own. She's a bit uneducated from a national and world affairs standpoint, which is what you expect from a remote state governor. Ask Biden about the status of salmon fisheries and he'll make something up, but she's probably right on top of that one. Get Biden to talk about anything other than John McCain's votes on alternative energy and he'll tell you a heartwarming story about Bill's Oil & Coal in Wilmington that never existed, or modify a Frank McCourt story about how his family had to make one piece of coal last all winter because President Willkie was such a bad Republican president back in the 1940s. Energy is Palin's issue, and she wasn't asked a single question about it.

She's a superb communicator, and couple that with more experience and she'll be deadly. She is probably about as physically attractive as a woman seeking political power can be without being off-putting to other women, what she lacks is a few more years in the governor's chair and easy familiarity with issues compelling to reporters and media folks. She needs to tone down the homespun a notch, but she's got the right instincts and she'll be a player for years.

She might even be Bobby Jindal.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Near-Liveblogging The Debate

Through the miracle of TiVo and a new HDTV aerial (new today) I can see every one of Joe Biden's hairplugs. Amazing. Anyway, I'm about 20 minutes behind, so refresh to see my take as it goes along.

Joe is muted and low-key

Sarah blew the answer about the financial issue. She blamed the 'Predatory lenders' without mentioning the effects of the CRA, without mentioning the actions of Freddie & Fannie.

She is bright and assertive but a little hyperkinetic. So far she's able to bring details without having to look like she's straining.

Joe is hammering deregulation, she's not responding and sticking on the tax issue. Needs to stop using the term 'heat up' the economy.

Next question: why is raising taxes not class warfare?

Joe "It's called fairness". Hmm. 30% of income tax filers don't pay any taxes. "Simple fairness" IS class warfare. $300 billion to corporate America.

Sarah "redistribution of wealth" good reframe. And she hits the small business issue. Needs to meniton S Corporations. Backwards way of growing the economy. Nice. Looked like she was going to duck the question on health care. Handled it well. "Unless you're pleased with the way the federal government has run much of anything..." Tap that anger, girl. She also snuck in the word 'Universal' -- that's a Frank Luntz word.

Joe is making a lot of hay out of the tax credit for healthcare. Spouts a lot of numbers but I doubt his specifics. I will have to look this up. $12K per insured, that's a lot of money. Maybe more than the entire private health insurance market.

Ifill reasks the "what promises will you not be able to keep?"

Joe Biden promises to slow down foreign aid, and not to keep John McCain's campaign promises regarding taxes. Will keep alternative energy, education, health care. Eliminate wasteful spending, mentions $100 billion tax dodge for offshore tax havens.

Doesn't tell one thing to one group & one to another. Energy bill 2005 -- "That's what gave those oil companies those big tax breaks" Biden used the $4 billion for XOM line twice, she turned it around and sank it in his eye socket. No, there's no promises we won't keep.

Biden responds that Barack Obama voted for it because it had alternative energy things, tried to strip it out. He calls her severance tax a "windfall profits tax", which it's not. If that is not proof of what I say then I don't know what is. Well, if you lie about it, then does it count as proof.

She's hammering the corruption and greed of Wall Street issue. John McCain to thank for failing to get his bill passed. "A toxic mess on Main Street that is affecting Wall Street." As Willy Wonka would say, "Strike that, reverse it."

Ifill asks about the bankruptcy bill -- it's complicated, Biden says. We should be allowing bankruptcy courts to adjust the principal you owe as well as your interest rate. That sounds fishy. Used to be that when you lost your stuff when you declared bankruptcy. The whole penalties thing?


Brief answer from Palin to deflect the bankruptcy issue and then back to energy. She's doing remarkably well so far, few flubs. She's kind of lecturing here, but hammering the ANWR issue. Energy independence is the key to this nation's future. Needs to stop using "heckuva".

Q: What is true and what is false regarding climate change? I don't want to argue about the causes of climate change, want to figure out how we can do that. All of the above plan. As we rely more and more on other countries.

Biden: It is man-made, it is clearly man-made. The cause is man-made. Gives the 3% of reserves/25% of consumption line, which minimizes our true reserves and ignores unproven offshore reserves as well as natural gas and the trillion barrels of oil shale we have. John McCain voted 20 times against alternative energy. Obama-biden wants to develop energy that needs subsidies to be competitive and try to sell that to the rest of the world. No-go in China or India, Joe. Coal is King there and will be for sure in China

Palin does support capping carbon emissions. Joe supports clean coal technology for 25 years, despite his rope-line comment. Maybe he's all for it if the go government doesn't have to pay for it.

Joe Biden supports gay marriage. First gaffe. Saran-does not support gay marriage. Now neither Joe Biden & Barack Obama do not support gay marriage. So much for the people who think Barack Obama is a closet gay marriage supporter.

Iraq: Palin sounds like she knows this. Compliments Biden on standing up to Obama regarding a political vote.

Biden: needs an exit strategy, needs a time table. Palin says we'll go when we're ready, when the Iraqis can govern themselves. She points out that Biden says he would have been proud to be VP candidate for McCain. skewers him effortlessly.

Biden says Pak nukes could hit Israel. Wrong, I believe. Between nuclear Iran and unstable Pakistan he chooses unstable Pakistan. Sarah says both are important but talks about how a nuclear Iran is dangerous. Gets into the "no preconditions" line. Talks about her meeting with Kissinger. Biden bald-faced lies about what Obama said at a Democratic debate HE WAS AT. Misrepresents what McCain said as well.

Palin is clear and articulate on need for a two-state solution. Sounds entirely reasonable. Biden is now running against George W. Bush. He is four years too late for that. Biden: haven't heard how the policy is different from Bush's.

8:55 When do we use nuclear weapons? Palin answers a line about not allowing nuclear proliferation. Makes point about using surge principle In Afghanistan. Biden says CG in Afghanistan says (today) that surge would not work. Mentions Obama-Lugar as if it's important - an update to a 1991 law makes a big difference how? Makes a statement about spending in 3 weeks in Iraq the same as in 7 years in Afghanistan. Ignores difference in geography, technology, etc.

Biden makes an impassioned speech about Darfur. Palin agrees, a little too smarmy, but then mentions divesting Alaska's investments in Sudan. Didn't know that.

9:05 pm: When do we go into another country? Biden if we can win, makes a statement about countries and when we can invade. Palin needles him again about his voting record and statements, she's hammered this enough that she had better have a couple of Aces in terms of backup documentation.

So what if your President dies? Neither one will change anything.

What a Vice-President does? Palin: working with the Senate, she would lead in areas of Energy, Senate, special-needs children. Biden: Senate, advising President, He will tell president if he disagrees. Ifill asks about Cheney's assertion regarding the split nature of VP as Executive vs. Legislative. Palin ducks the question, wisely. Biden gives a long answer that is probably too much inside baseball.

Conventional Wisdom: Palin is inexperienced, Biden undisciplined. Palin makes a good speech. Biden says he's changed things, tears up when talking about his kids. Pain responds, needs to stop using the term 'Maverick'. It's getting annoying. Find another way to say it. Biden: "Maverick he is not."

Final question: What policy position have you changed? Biden: position re: judicial confirmation. Palm; wasn't able to zero-balance budgets, no compromises on principle.

Now the real final question: How do you stop the partisanship as VP? Biden: Don't question others' motives. Palin: get the job done, don't worry about credit.

Final statements: Palin: I like Reagan. McCain fought for you. Biden: it's time for America to stand up together.

Especially people making $250K or more. It's easier to get at their wallets that way.

Debate over. Palin survived, not broken or dispirited. Biden only gaffed once, wasn't nasty. Both did a good job. Hard to pick a winner, Pain maybe wins by not losing, but not by much.

Bwahaha! Maureen Dowd Kicked Off McCain Plane

Maureen Dowd, The New York Times' op-ed columnist, is no longer welcome on the McCain-Palin press plane.

She sent an email to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:

"I had had a great relationship with John McCain for 16 years, through columns he liked and didn't like. So at first I thought it was a mistake and doublechecked with the press office. They said I was banned from both planes for 'the foreseeable future.' Then [McCain spokeswoman] Nicole Wallace was gloating about it to reporters on the Palin plane," Dowd wrote in an email.

"It was disappointing because I didn't think John McCain would ever be as dismissive of the First Amendment as Dick Cheney."

A couple of notes. First, when did the First Amendment extend to a seat on a plane? Goodness, if that's the case I've had my First Amendment rights violated my entire life. Ms. Dowd could certainly arrange her own travel and cover every news event as it happens -- she's just not actually a news reporter so that would be a little too pedestrian, I guess. It's no secret that in recent weeks the McCain campaign has called out the New York Times as a biased and unfair news operation.

What's more, Ms. Dowd has a column up today, and has had columns published on her regularly scheduled slots in the NYT without interruption since being booted off the plane August 30. I don't see any First Amendment violation here.

Second, Barack Obama's campaign did precisely the same thing to New Yorker writer Ryan Lizza, who lost his seat on the junket to Europe after the New Yorker got sideways with Team O over a sarcastic cover featuring a cartoon of Michelle Obama as Angela Davis and Barack in Somali garb in the Oval Office. Few cries of First Amendment violation there.

It gets even better if you read the comments on these stories at Huffington Post or Daily Kos. Schadenfreude is a term for quiet joy when seeing the pain of others, there needs to be a similar term for self-satisfaction at seeing the stupidity of others. I hope that if Obama wins the netroots people don't actually get to influence things. It's already been established (through a poll, asterisk asterisk) that a whopping 29% of self-identified Obama voters believe the Supreme Court should rule based on what's in the Constitution, so it is entirely possible that the First Amendment entitles Ms. Dowd to her seat on the Straight-Talk Express.

There does appear to be an upside to an Obama win: your seat on an airplane is no longer a contractual agreement between you and an airline, it's now a Constitutional Right!

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

The 'Burning Down the House' Video

I can't embed it, but the video giving some of the history of the subprime meltdown along with the government's role in promoting it has been re-cut without the music that Time Warner Group objected to, which resulted in it being pulled from YouTube after 1.2 million views.

There is a bit at the beginning which notes that Google (who owns YouTube) and Time Warner have been major contributors to the Obama campaign. I think that's worth noting, and remembering when it's time to purchase magazine subscriptions or music.

The video is here. Please share this with anyone you talk to who seems particularly ignorant on this subject. If necessary, drag them to a computer and make them watch it. If you don't like the new music, turn off the sound.