Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Brinksmanship: the market

Shall we let the market crash and burn, or support it artificially and let all the bad players get saved from their mistakes. I guess I'm a hyper-capitalist, so I suggest to do the former. Someone like Buffett will come in a take a few pennies on the dollar for those CDOs. Let the financials drag the market down until people separate the companies generating real value from those who just speculated with other people's money.

I distrust Paulson who is too interwined with his Wall Street friends to let them hang out to dry. This bailout will for sure be the biggest windfall for those financial companies in history!!!

I think allowing the market to price something is what we want. Why have gov't intervene? With some new special legislation companies must disclose how much so called toxic mortgages they have instead of hiding it and the market will come in and figure out if a company deserves to sink or swim. It's very simple. No more allowing companies to guess at -- and generally inflate -- the price themselves.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

On conservative values: the PT article by Jesse Prinz, PhD

I was particularly struck by an article on a Psychology Today blog about the particular values of conservatives which liberals have trouble understanding. I guess I have been reading the New York Times while skipping Safire and Kristol for far too long to have any idea of the existence of these values, much less any understanding to why they are so important.

According to the article these conservative values are: purity, respect for authority, and loyalty to the in-group.

The last one first. This is a morality straight from the savanna (or jungle). I.e. to survive you had to trust in people around you and these were your family and clan. And true, on the savanna, another human group could be out to harm you, at least before you harm them. In modern times without daily enemies to fight, this has morphed into loyalty your own town, city, state, or country. Or more ominously, your own race or religion. I would have thought we would have moved beyond this in a modern world. It reeks of xenophobia, racism and discrimination. But conservatives see this as a paramount value. I personally think it has unfortunately to do with this new fundamentalist Christianity or evangelicals. Mainline Protestants and Catholics seemed to have more compassion for the poor and others outside of their own circle. And if Buddhism was the national religion it definitely wouldn't be this way. Buddhists believe in striving for compassion for all, and explicitly not just the in-group.

Respect for authority. Okay, I might buy this. Let's not have anarchy, but still, burning the flag: what's the big deal? Okay, it's a symbol of the country, so what. It is small minds that equate burning the flag with anything other than someone's protest of something he/she feels is wrong with the country. It's not like the old days, where America was some weak and fledgling country which needed some symbol to rally behind like a flag. America is wealthy and powerful still. You burn a flag -- one you bought yourself with your own money --, we will make another to sell to you for you to burn if you like.

Purity. I'm afraid I completely don't get this one. Since I've never sat through church indoctrination (and never will, thank the gods), it makes no sense to me. I suppose I've always had what others would call 'impure thoughts' -- I guess these are supposed to be thoughts which if acted on would get you shut out of heaven's gate. (Or does just having the thoughts make you a bad Christian?) But those rules are so arbitrary. Like, okay, since I'm a guy and I like guys, every few seconds on the beach I guess I'm having impure thoughts. Actually thankfully, it has never occurred to me that this is the case. And only now, trying to put myself into a poor devout Christian's head, would I have had a complex about it. How sad to be concerned about such cultural relics. To be indoctrinated at a young age is almost a tragic thing. I resolve to have pity and compassion for such unfortunates. Okay, let me reconsider that later.

A couple bonus topics...

Now, I always understood economic conservatism. This was the basically selfish idea that government shouldn't spend my hard earned money. And one might have expected that I would become an economic conservative and a proponent of small government in my middle age. It hasn't happened yet, and I don't think it ever will.

Actually, so long as everyone as wealthy or as poor as I am is taxed equally, I think it's fine. Billionaire Warren Buffett himself feels he isn't being taxed enough. I agree.

And finally symbolism. I was so amazed at the damn American flags fluttering in the wind at the Republican convention. What does it mean? Is there anything behind those flags, except to hit people over the head with the idea that supposedly Republicans love their country more (but are too stupid, stingy or lazy to do anything to make it better for anyone outside of their own wealthy in-group). Have I become too cynical? The flag to me is weapon used by the Republicans against me. Screw the damn Republicans and their damn flags. It's as if maybe some idiot will vote based on which convention had more flags. Well, that could be. I guess the Dems will have to learn to live without winning that idiot's vote.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

CA 1-cent sales tax increase

The Republicans in the state legislature aren't agreeing with Schwarzenegger's proposal for a cent sales tax increase -- which, by the way, supposedly takes the sales tax back down after a few years (probably a little added grease in the proposal for those against any taxes). I thought that if I were a Republican I would be for the sales tax. I mean Republicans tend to be fiscally conservative. They wouldn't spend their money willy-nilly like wealthy urban liberals. And they're not poor for whom the greatest portion of their income is spent on stuff for survival (though they and everyone else in the state get a sales tax break on food and medicine). In any case, Republicans would more likely have computers at home and do some internet shopping if it really bothers them (okay, they would legally have to pay those sales tax back in income tax later, but CA isn't yet NY where the online vendors automatically add tax to transactions). So Republicans wouldn't be hit very hard by a one-cent sales tax. Any other tax rises, such as income or property taxes would be even worse tax hit on Republicans. I suppose those are complete non-starters.

I guess the Republicans just want to issue bonds to borrow our way out of this budget crisis or just blindly cut spending. But I think California schools and roads are bad enough as they are, no?

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Pandering to the lowest common denominator

The recent events surrounding the New Yorker magazine cover highlighted to me what Democrats wanting to win in November need to remember. The rest of the electorate is stupid. I know, I know. You're thinking this is another one of my innumerable rants about Republicans, but it's not.

Let's go through this demonstration. The New Yorker prints a very unsubtle piece of satire on it's cover. Many college educated people would understand it as such and might even laugh -- albeit a bit uneasily (more on that later). However, there is a large percentage of folks who actually see the cover, believe it and see that it reinforces their distorted view of Obama created by the Republican attack machine, a machine which is laser tuned to this demographic (the Republicans have this totally figured out). These poor folks don't actually read New Yorker -- or any other magazine which is not mostly pictures for that matter. They're too lazy or borderline illiterate to do so. They barely graduated from high school. To them, the immediate howls of protest from the Obama campaign -- which might be puzzling to those who find the satire obvious and funny -- makes perfect sense. The campaign needs to show that Obama denies it, repudiates it and criticizes it. The fact that the New Yorker prints such a thing is worrying to those of us who understand its potential unintended misinterpretations and reinforcing of fears of Mr. Obama. Satire -- even something so obvious as this -- is really too deep for this class of folks. (Ok, fine. Call me an elitist then.)

But anyway going back to a comment I made some time ago on this blog, for the general election, the Democrats really need to shore up the lowest common denominator pandering. Obama has locked up the most of the intellectuals, or in any case these folks are smart enough to have already made up their minds to a large degree. So, going forward, no more of this subtle approach is needed. Everything needs to be simple and straight-forward and come down like a hammer. It means no satire nor sarcasm nor irony nor subtle humor. Only dumbed down sound bites. Unfortunately, this does not lead to nuanced positions which intellectuals within the Obama campaign may wish to hold forth on.

This is instead an opportunity for apt analogies and simple story-telling. Does this mean Obama needs to become like a, er, Bill Clinton? Maybe...

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Iraq: a retrospective

So Bush did the right thing with the surge? He decided to try to salvage a very bad situation by doubling down. Would another commander in chief do the same thing with a huge mistake he'd already invested a huge amount of his country's money and his own reputation -- not to mention the lives -- on? Probably. Bush, least of all, would understand the fallacy of sunk costs.

People, mostly Democrats, had suggested withdrawal, unless political progress was made towards reconciliation. And finally Malliki is making that progress, after the American electorate seemed ready to leave him holding the bag. Meanwhile Bush being obstinate, refused timetables. Without the pressure of the American people, Malliki would have taken even more time than he has in making that small progress. But even with these f--k ups, finally it seems possible for the American military to make a withdrawal from Iraq.

Let's take a Machievellian, er, practical, look at this result:
On the negative side:
(1) Bush, Republicans, and America's reputation stained by false data, fundamentally flawed process, leading to unnecessary war against a non-threatening country far away
(2) $1.2+ trillion spent on aforementioned unnecessary war using borrowed money, leading to weakened US dollar
(3) Enemy Iran strengthened by elimination of hostile neighbor
(4) Taliban and Al Qaeda extremists still not eliminated, both stronger than if the US hadn't gone into Iraq, Afghanistan still unstable
(5) Political uncertainty in the middle east raises oil prices and makes US electorate unhappy
(6) High oil prices strengthen enemies and authoritarian regimes such as Venezuela, Iran, Russia.
On the plus side:
(1) Small but potentially lucrative oil contracts made with companies from western countries, though not all companies are American, despite huge US investment in Iraq.
Seems like a raw deal for Americans handed us by Bush. If the surge hadn't worked, things would have been even worse.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

More how to tell if your husband is gay, or, straight rather

From the response to my previous post, there seems to be interest in this topic, so let me suggest another couple helpful methods, but in reverse: i.e. how to tell if your husband is straight. Here are some dead giveaways:
  1. He doesn't care so much or at all about his appearance or dress, or he has long hair or had it when you met him and before you convinced him otherwise, although the only exception might be longish curly hair.

  2. He's below 30 years old, born in the US, and not out or known as gay to his close friends and lives in a big city in California or other liberal place.

  3. He does not glance in an attractive guy's direction even for the smallest instant briefly in passing -- even if otherwise obviously preoccupied with, say, talking to you. It could be generalized, that a guy who doesn't check out other reasonably good looking guys is straight. A reason why I think this is a good one is: I know that I've passed women -- with their smaller figures, long hair and lighter footfalls or heels -- without glancing up for a moment. I.e. you can tell someone's sex from far away and if a guy's not interested in a closer look -- it is after all just looking -- he won't bother if he's straight and a guy is approaching, just as I don't when a woman is approaching.
This last one reminds me of a funny story. I was walking down a hallway with a friend. We passed two people. My friend asked me if I noticed what the woman was wearing -- it was something suggestive. I hadn't. This was because I was too occupied with checking out the guy -- who was obviously straight because he didn't look up for a second from his female friend. Later, we were walking back and passed this couple again. This time I checked out the guy (again!) -- to myself: 'oh, it's the same guy' -- and then and only then did I remember to look at the girl who had attracted the interest of my definitely straight friend. Finally I was able to respond to his question about what the woman was wearing. (It's a little too bad, but we couldn't share meaningful notes on this one. I.e. whether she was showing too much or not. I couldn't be less of an expert there.)

Of course, I'm out, and so I have dropped any pretense of attempting to mask who gets my 'closer glance' preference. My guess is some closet cases may have developed the counter to this, which is basically to check out every youngish woman he passes and purposely not the guys, at least when he's with his wife. But god, wouldn't that just take any remaining joy out of life? It's just so sickeningly soul crushing to even think about...

Monday, May 19, 2008

Paying Clinton to leave? Really?

I don't think it's right: the suggestion that Obama money should go to Clinton to encourage her to leave (and perhaps fight against him with this money 4 years later). If Clinton leaves, it should be of her own accord. Since she loaned money to her own campaign, that's her own decision. She shouldn't count on Obama to make her whole again. Obama will need that money to fight McCain, and how badly would that reflect on Clinton and Obama, if the Republican machine was able to outspend Obama because of the money he might fork out on a request like this from Clinton's campaign. Again, it was Clinton's choice to continue on despite the poor outlook from Super Tuesday, sapping her own funds as well as Obama's. With $109 million and many more millions coming from Bill, she can afford it, even if she never gets paid back. Anyway, I hope Clinton says this idea is pure hogwash.

On a related topic, Clinton's campaign has said she is ahead on popular vote, but Al Gore didn't win even though he won the popular vote. Sure, elections -- including nomination bids -- are a game, but the candidate needs to know how to play that game and win to beat the Republicans.

Actually, I think I do support Clinton staying in up to a point. But I don't think she should go negative at all. She should win based on the merits and by a good and obvious margin. It should not be: scrabble a few delegates here and a few delegates there and my wildest dream best case scenario, then I've won. At some point it should be clear, without a reasonable doubt even on generous but fair Florida and Michigan delegate accounting (remember Obama wasn't even on the ballot), that Obama has won. Perhaps that has already happened today. In this hypothetical scenario, having avoided ugly negative campaigning, bowing out would be a grace note and an honorable thing for Clinton to do. We would all think very highly of her.

But the path she has chosen has been far different, divisive and ugly.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

No more go arounds for Hillary Clinton

Graceful exit, waiting your turn => McCain's second chance
Divisive and negative prolonged exit => Voter fatigue and negative associations

From Clinton's perspective, it seems like a losing battle with little reason to continue, except to decimate chances for next time, if it turns too ugly. Now people say that it's better for Obama to face a battle against Clinton and survive -- following the theory of whatever doesn't 'kill' you, makes you stronger -- than to face McCain and the ruthless Republican machine. Perhaps there is some truth to that.

I don't see McCain's machine being as cynically political and dirty as W's, but you never know with the Republicans.

It is, of course, an unfair comparison of the Republican battle of Bush/McCain versus Obama/Clinton, because the Republican primaries are mostly winner takes all. Second place candidates can't survive long that way.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Boycott Olympics?

Wouldn't it be a shame if after all that trouble China went to hold the Olympics in 2008 no one went? It's unlikely the athletes would boycott. But how about the tourists. They've probably all paid for their tickets, eh? Well, it would be a nice idea in principle.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

SU: Meyer Library Demolition

[FarmReport] I was surprised and happy to read about the plan to demolish Meyer Library on the Stanford campus. I was always partial to Green even when it was partly closed down after the earthquake. The late 1960's built Meyer was unsightly, smelly and decrepit, and even though it got periodic and expensive face-lifts, it never really seemed to improve. Even the renovated and nearly century old original (now Bing) wing of Green is classy by comparison. The newer wing of Green (1980) is stately, modern, and quiet with super comfy chairs, perfect for napping.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Son of W. Buckley writes defending McCain

This Christopher Buckley guy makes it sound like it was all a joke. Like how the conservatives thought it would be funny if they could buy a party and win elections and take over the government and f**k it up. And in a way I kind of believe it. With money to burn, why not? It's like a big joke among the wealthy white folks. But it's funny that he says he's pretty much given up hope of Republicans winning in '06 and '08. [NYT] [Wash. Monthly]

Monday, February 18, 2008

Bin Laden purposely let go!

Here I am repeating a conspiracy theory, but I just finished reading a book about the incredibly cynical thought processes of movement conservatism and the Bush presidency. It just popped into my mind a now seemingly very likely scenario. They purposely let Osama Bin Laden go! I mean what would have happened to the war on terror if they'd caught, captured, and/or killed the guy, there would be no more bogeyman to go after to justify "cheap, quick, and painless" wars in Iraq and Iran. All that seems much less compelling after we have the guy. And how could Bush get re-elected in 2004 without him starting a war. So we purposely let him go. I'm convinced of it. Sad.

# # #

Another possibility is that have killed the guy, but say we didn't. It's a little better, in that we are trying to undermine Al Qaeda through deception, but it still serves the deceitful purpose of justifying the Iraq war.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

How to tell if your husband is gay

Checklist republished by gawker (from a Fox 5 New York posting) of how to tell if your husband is gay. Actually, I consider that it's a pretty good list, though probably if I thought harder about it, I could come up with some more interesting suggestions like:
  1. He seems interested in sports, but only knows the rules superficially and only mirrors your interest in them, or

  2. He likes to keep strict limits on the interactions between different areas of his life, like work, old high school friends, college friends, and home (at some point, someone knows his true sexual identity), or

  3. He's actually much prettier than you. when you got married, even your girlfriends said you 'scored' and pumped their fists!

  4. He often doesn't shave, and says he thinks he looks better when he doesn't, or

  5. He watches a lot of television, especially when it might be a good time to have sex. You have a television in the bedroom and it was his idea.
Related posts:

More how to tell if your husband is gay, or straight rather: some tip-offs that he's definitely straight

Little indications: gaydar: more insights into gay versus straight

NY Mag: double life: an article about closeted gay husbands

When the Beard is too painful to remove: some commentary from me and a link to the NYTimes piece of the same title.

What's up with callboys outing politicians and evangelists: NYTimes on how discreet callboys might be a thing of the past, the gay generation gap.

Thursday, February 07, 2008


Everything I've learned says that revenge isn't a proper motivation for anything. But anyway, just for fun, here's some twisted reasoning to justify hoping that Clinton wins. The Republicans hate Hillary Clinton. Dems hated W and deservedly so (He was an idiot. He took this country and poured American money and lives down the drain. He trashed our civil liberties. He trashed our environment. I'm not even getting warmed up here...) It will be hard for Hillary to be elected in spite of all those Republicans and "independents" who will vote for McCain, but if she does, it'll just bug the hell out of all those people who hate her. It's a perfect indirect revenge. I mean if I can get over the f**king hell of George Bush, I'm sure they can get over having Hillary Clinton as President.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Winds blowing for Obama ( I'll whistle along )

From what limited conversations I've had with folks lately, it seems to me that Obama is gaining momentum in California. After seeing some more of him, I think I'm getting more comfortable with him as a good choice, despite what I think is his lack of on screen charisma. My reasoning on the matter:

Being right on Iraq probably means having a prescient sense of the possibility of outright lies coming out of the Bush administration -- lies which few others thought possible until it was too late. This is not something any of the other serious contenders to President can claim. And it does show actually a sense of judgment which is necessary as President. Of course, that stance could have been pure luck as even he says as justification for his stance at the time that we should have been concentrating on winning in Afghanistan. But you know what they say about generals: "he's good, but is he lucky?"

There is also something to the idea of newcomer funded by the people who is not beholden to special interests.

And at the risk of taking a chauvinistic stance on the details versus big picture (women are usually more detail oriented), I think big picture is probably better suited for a President.