Thursday, September 25, 2008

McCain gambles

McCain is gambling with his political campaign, and so far it's working. Three notable gambles: 1) Sarah Palin 2) Canceling the RNC for the hurricane 3) Pausing the campaign to return to Washington for the economic crisis.

Time magazine profiles each candidate's gambling habits: Candidates' Vices" Craps and Poker

I'm trying to write shorter blog posts, but let me say a quick thing about each of McCain's gambles. Sarah Palin has turned into a pinup girl. The press is allowed to take pictures but no video or audio, and no questions. The RNC hurricane (a better name Might be Gustav but who will remember that?) ended up being a non issue, and McCain played the right bet here. The campaign pause is a total publicity stunt. He has not stopped TV commercials and has made appearances on 5 (five) television networks since he announced he would stop campaigning. If people called "STUNT!" on any of these things, they would realize they cannot vote for John McCain.

Here by accident, is a nice video wrapup of this blog post

Tuesday, September 23, 2008


"Americans in general want a clean, prosperous environment, with lots to do, good paying jobs, nice homes, good transportation, healthy food. But what are we willing to do to get there?" asked a friend. She mentioned that one way she is adjusting to the changes that the US is facing is by a 12$/month unlimited bus pass. I'm jealous! Here's the rest of my reply:

First and foremost, I think that as Americans we need to pay more attention to the total costs associated with our actions. Your bus pass is partially paid by taxes, probably on some people who don't use public transportation very much, if at all. But even though their tax money isn't getting them from point A to point B, they receiving lighter traffic because you seek out alternative means of transportation. They are ensuring that somebody drives less and saves the environment. And they are keeping the bus driver employed, off the streets and earning money to be taxed by the local government. All in all, that sounds like a good cost!

The federal government also has programs that need to be paid for by taxes, but Bush recklessly offered tax cuts (favoring the rich) without cutting the programs those taxes paid for. This irresponsibility caused the budget deficit to rise higher than ever before. Just take a look at this graph, where the national debt (as percent of GDP) is clearly rising over the periods of Regan, Bush Sr. and Bush Jr.

But both McCain and Obama know that raising taxes on people who are just scraping by will not help the economy. The difference is that Barack recognizes that there are some people who can afford to continue paying for the programs their representatives voted into place. He has not proposed raising taxes on the rich. Taxes for people making $250k will return to what they were when Bush took office, because Barack is just going to let the tax cuts expire as they are scheduled to do. The republicans have done a good job painting this as a tax increase, but in fact this is just the post-Thanksgiving sale at Bloomingdale's expiring on Friday night.

What are the costs of the Iraq war? Ten billion US dollars a month, Four thousand US casualties and Twenty thousand Iraqi people dead. What are the costs of the Paulson bailout plan? Seven hundred billion dollars per year, non-reviewable, and non-recoupable by us, the tax payers.

You are right that we are going to have to make adjustments no matter who gets elected in November. But to me, the adjustments are in how we pay for these mistakes. We can't just put it on our Chinese Express credit card and hope the problem goes away.

So the image I would like to see the United States follow is one of more intelligence. You know I was called "elitist" for saying that? (by my own mother!) Where else in the world can you elect a candidate because he's not too smart, not too rich, and not too handsome? I think we should be selecting the best president we can, and right now that is Barack Obama.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Golden Parachute

John McCain admits that the economy is not one of his strong suits, so one of McCain's personal economic advisors is Carly Fiorina. She successfully ran the IPO of Lucent in 1996 and she was named by Fortune magazine as the most powerful woman in business in 1998. But she does not think John McCain or Sarah Palin would be qualified to run a business.

How hard could it be? Well, Fiorina, who successfully ran the IPO of Lucent then went on to smash HP into the ground. On her watch, HP's market value was cut in half and the board of directors asked her to leave.

Now here's what really gets me angry: failures are rewarded. Fiorina was awarded a $21 million dollar cash severance along with the ~$21 stock valuation she held (a valuation that would have been higher had she not wrecked the company). Is this what she thinks happens to people who loose their job? No wonder McCain thinks the economy is doing alright, the unemployment rate is higher than ever so clearly all those people have a nice severance hidden away.

The HP fiasco is personal too. My Dad's aunt was an employee for HP for many years and one of the nicest people you will ever meet. She was within months of retirement when Fiorina led the merger with Compaq, and she was made redundant. Months away from a big party, cake, pension and health care, she was laid off.

Ultimately, a "Golden Parachute" is up to the company's board to dole out but it's encouraging to hear Barack put workers first in this situation:

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Recipe for entertainment

When I want to be entertained, there's a couple things I look for:

- I want to suspend belief. Don't give me every day stories and especially don't give me reality TV. I want to escape my life.
- Create a world for me to believe. While I want to visit a fantastical world, it must have rules that my nerd mind can understand and extrapolate from.
- Give me some mystery. Maybe some of the world's laws aren't fully explained to me at the beginning, or maybe some of the characters have unknown pasts. I need to be engaged in finding out more.
- Romance and sexual tension between the principal characters should be the continuing theme in the show. That means that 99% of the episodes cannot have mushy happy endings, because there needs to be a reason to continue watching.

So here are some of my favorite shows:
- Buffy the Vampire slayer: A world where vampires rule the night, but they can be killed by fire, beheading, and of course, a stake through the heart. Buffy loves Angel, but the real story is Zander and Buffy, two childhood friends who could never be together.
- Alias: A story of agents in the CIA. Physics and Laws are consistent with our own, but the lives of agents are seriously unbelievable. I believe the story was strongest when Will Tippen was around, but there's still a certain "forbidden" aspect of the romance between Sidney and Vaugn.
- Highlander: Immortals live among us and kill eachother with swords. The love interest here is not Duncan, but instead Richie and Tessa. The rules are very strong but we don't know why: Immortals can sense eachother when close, they cannot kill on holy ground and in the end, there can be only one.
- X-Files: This one has less rules and more suspension of belief. Scully and Mulder can never get together, but there will always be the romance.
- Firefly: Captain Mal and Anora are classic examples of the strained romance. If you can believe the post-apocalyptic world they live in, then the cowboy, space theme is not hard to believe.
- Heroes: definitely suspends belief, but the story changes so often it hasn't been able to capture my attention past the first season. Hopefully this will change with the new season.