Friday, October 31, 2008

Decision 08 – A Paranoid Presidential Top Ten

Five days from now, barring a two month recount battle, we should know who the next president of the United States will be. If you take the word of the pundits, you probably think we already know. Here are the top ten paranoid anxieties which make me wonder if Tuesday night might be longer and tenser than we expect. Worse yet, could some combination of these factors add up to a stunning disaster (a McCain/Palin win)? I’ll be live-blogging on Tuesday night, possibly throughout the day too, so if you’re not at a bar or an election party, feel free to stop by (in person or on the internet).

10. Karl Rove - What about Karl Rove? I don't know. But he makes the list because he’s Karl Rove and he can do stuff. And there are a lot of hours left before the polls close.

9. Joe Biden – Muzzle thyself, Gaffey McGafferson. There are a lot of hours left before the polls close.

8. November Surprise? Too late? Is it?

[ok - those three were mostly filler. now we get into my real paranoid anxieties:]

7. Malfunctioning Machines – There have been reports of electronic voting machines that have been flipping people’s votes – they choose the Democrat candidate and their selection is switched to another candidate instead. They just need to be recalibrated? What if they still don’t work after recalibration (as happened in West Virginia (see video below))? And isn't it possible that this recalibration bullshit is going to open the door to massive fraud? And what if people are given a paper receipt? Should we be happy then? Not if there’s no way to verify that what’s going on inside the machines is accurate. Am I being paranoid? Why are all the reports of machine vote flipping about flipping away from Democrat selections? Wouldn't the Republicans be raising hell if this was happening to them? It's probably not going to matter for Obama in West Virginia (which will likely go McCain), but it might make a big difference in Pennsylvania where voting machines were breaking down across the state in the primary season. When you vote on Tuesday, bring your camera and video your vote. Raise hell if there's something fishy going on.

6. The Bradley Effect - In 1982, the black mayor of LA, Tom Bradley, ran for governor of California and enjoyed a lead in both the pre-election polls and the exit polls. And he lost. The effect named after him suggests that people didn’t want to appear racist so they told pollsters they voted for him when in reality they had not. I don’t think this is going to be a huge factor in this year’s race, but it’s possible that there will be some effect. I saw one Princeton poli-sci professor who suggested that black politicians factor in 5 points worth of Bradley Effect when looking at their polls. That’s scary. But the Bradley election was 26 years ago. We’ve grown as a nation since then. Haven’t we? Have we?

5. The Undecideds are all going to vote McCain - Some analysts seem to think that all the undecideds are going McCain; others see no reason to think they won’t be split. Paul Begala suggested that it’s not the people who say they’re going to vote for Obama who can’t bring themselves to vote for him (Bradley Effect), but the people who say they’re undecided who would rather say that than that they won’t vote for him.

4. The Fear Factor – Will people be swayed by the desperate and irrational fear-mongering of the McCain Campaign and decide that it’s just too risky, too dangerous, to vote for Obama? This concerns me. If we’ve learned anything from the past 7 years it’s that the American people are very susceptible to fear mongering.

3. The Stupid Factor – Will people fail to understand that we already have a fucking progressive tax structure in the United States and that Obama’s tax plan is in no more socialist/Marxist/communist than George Bush’s or any other non-flat-tax-pushing politician?

2. Republican Electoral Shenanigans – Forget about the bullshit misdirection of the ACORN hubbubabaloo. They haven’t done anything wrong or illegal. The real threat to the very fiber of democracy is the continued, systematic, Republican voter suppression effort – which has ranged from disenfranchisement (voter roll purging) to intimidation to discouragement (disproportionate number of voting booths in white and black neighborhoods). In 2000 it was Florida; in 2004 it was Ohio. What state will it be in 2008? Pennsylvania? Virginia? Nevada? Will it even matter this year?

1. Obsolete Polling Methodology? – Are we all being completely fooled by inaccurate polling information? Here’s an interesting interview with UberStatMonkey Nate Silver about polling this election cycle. Silver is the managing partner of the highly respected baseball stat site, Baseball Prospectus, and the brains behind the popular polling site, Of particular interest is this exchange:

NATE SILVER: Well, what I'm worried about is that this reliance is happening at the same time the polling itself is getting more and more difficult to do. You know, it used to be considered good if you could get 40 percent of the people to pick up the phone when you called and responded to your survey. That used to be kind of the benchmark. And now, if you get 20 percent of people actually responding, or even 15 percent, that's considered good to adequate. You know, people screen their phone calls a lot more now. People who have cell phones aren't called, in the first place, by most of the pollsters; there are some exceptions. You know, people have Vonage, these services on the internet, where they don't even have a telephone. So it's hard to reach people who are busy, who are distrustful of a random number coming up on their land line. And so, the non-response problem is becoming, you know, very serious. We might have to move into some kind of a hybrid, where you do try some kind of a survey instrument on the internet, combine that with a telephone sample. But these polls, you know, as we saw numerous times in the primaries this year, are not terribly accurate. It's not because the pollsters are dumb. There are a lot of very smart people in the industry. It's just inherently very hard to do when you're trying to do a survey, and, you know, four out of five or five of six people won't take your phone call. It's kind of very hard to balance everything to kind of make up for that fundamental problem.

JUAN GONZALEZ: And is there any concern and any analysis been done of the people who are refusing to be polled, whether they have any particular political perspective or viewpoint that might end up skewing your—the total results of a poll?

NATE SILVER: There are different kind of groups. Usually older people still pick up the phone more than younger people, women still more than men. You know, there's some thought that maybe people who are quite conservative won't pick up the phone as much as people who are more liberal. So it does depend. In this election, those kind of different kind of things balance out, where you might get too few young people, but maybe too few conservatives. That would kind of balance out. But, you know—but there definitely is what's called non-response bias. What the pollsters try and do is say, you know, if the woman answers the phone, to say, "I want to speak with the person having the next birthday," for example. But you can't always correct for that. Some of these polls use automated scripts; they're so-called robopolls. And so, they won't have a chance. Someone can say they're are a woman, if they're in fact, you know, not a woman, if that's what they feel, if they feel like trying to mess with the polling script and stuff like that. So there are kind of numerous problems with your kind of selection and with your non-response bias.

Are we chained to the floor in Plato's Cave, taking the puppet shadows for reality?

Verdict: I think Obama's going to win. But these ten things will keep me anxious and uncomfortable until he reaches 344 electoral college votes. I need a solid 74 ECV comfort zone this year.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Paul Pierce is a Big Crybaby


Paul Pierce humiliated himself, his teammates, and the city of Boston tonight by opening up the waterworks at the TD Banknorth Garden when he received his championship ring and raised the Celtics' 17th World Championship banner to the rafters. After he stopped bawling like a kindergarten bitch, he went on to further shame his family and friends by scoring a piddly 11 points in the first quarter to "set the tone" and finished with a pathetic 27 points, "leading" his team to an season-opening win. What a pussy.

And we're done with Bizarro World. I admit it: I got a little chill seeing the oft-stabbed warrior-captain (-) of the C's crying and raising the long-awaited 17th Banner to its place next to the 1986 banner. Trivmaster John and the Practical Slacker were watching the ceremony with me and they had the decency not to scrutinize my moist eyes. Perhaps they were busy concealing their own.

In the midst of a World Series freeze-frame and a month of obsessive political poll-monitoring, it's a joy to welcome the Celtics back into my life. It was nice to see the pomp and ceremony celebrating last season's title, but it was great to watch Pierce, Powe, Rondo, and the gang grind their way to a solid win against a very good Cavs team. The first half of the game was not the most impressive performance, but the sloppiness could easily be explained away as an emotional hiccup after the pre-game ceremony. Their defense locked down in the second half, limited LeBron and the Cavs to 35 points, and closed it out. Good win. I like the C's chances to make it back to the NBA Finals this year. The loss of James Posey will be felt, but I feel good about those minutes being redistributed between Powe, Tony Allen, and super-rookie Bill Walker. If Rondo, Perk, Powe, and Big Baby all continue their improvement this year, we're going to be in good shape.

In addition to the Celtics, I'm excited about the whole NBA this year. The Lakers, Hornets, and Cavs are all better, the Spurs, Mavs, and Suns are all older, and the Sixers, Jazz, Rockets, Pistons, Raptors, and Blazers are all intriguing. I was looking forward to watching the debut of the Blazer's "Glass" Greg Oden in the 2nd game of the doubleheader tonight against "Glass" Andrew Bynum and the Lakers. Oden looked like the man-child he is in the first 13 minutes, pulling down 5 boards and awkwardly missing 4 shots. Then he sprained something in the foot-ankle range of his right leg. Not the knee though. He was held out for the rest of the game and the MRI is forthcoming. I really hope he's alright because he seems like a great kid and a monster talent. I hope he's not going to end up on the long list of of NBA disappointments.

Random trivia question: who started their NBA career by getting their first points on a goaltending call and finished their career in the top 20 all-time for points and steals?

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Lousy Literature - (lousy like a fox. A fox infested by louses)

While in the San Francisco Mystery Books store last year, I picked up a couple garbage pulp non-classics. One was Plugged Nickel - a train mystery about a stranger who appeared to have been split in two on the tracks - but wait! The bottom belonged to a woman and the top half belonged to a man - whaa??? It was horribly written and fantastically so. The other book was Henry Kane's Death Is The Last Lover, which promised to be both crappily entertaining and mildly pornographic. Plus it had what looks like a large rat bite out of the side. (or a large louse bite)

Sold. It is quite possibly the worst piece of writing I've ever read. And I love it. It has yielded such masterful constructions of the English language as:


Awesome. Why has it taken me 35 years to discover the joy of crappy mysteries? I'm hooked. Hooked like a fish on a hook. Like a sardine that's going to be crammed into a can of sardines. Here's another sample for your reading pleasure/pain:

Mousie Lawrence, born Morris Lawrence, was a fifty-year-old man with all the moral scruples of a despondent rodent. He was small, wiry, rough, tough, and heartless. Fifteen years ago he was still groping, clawing for his niche in the world of his peers - that was when he was apprehended and jugged for armed robbery. But Mousie was not stupid and he had come a long way since then. Ten years ago, he had hooked up with a major narcotics outfit operating out of Mexico City and he had been paired off with Kiddy Malone. They had fitted together like a screw and a bolt, they had complemented one another: they were a rousing success in the nefarious traffic which was their milieu. They were front men, advance men, salesmen. Operating out of Mexico City, with enormous funds at ther [sic] disposal, they descended upon various points in the United States where they set up depots, organized intricate personnel, managed and stayed with an operation until it was meshed, geared, flawless, and self-performing. Then they retreated to home base, where minds concentrated on the next site of burgeoning business for this enterprising duo. Mousie was a sour little man, dry and humorless, and a teetotaler both of alcohol and drugs. Kiddy Malone was an addict, a small man like Mousie, but outgoing, robust, twinkling-eyed and happy-natured when he was on the stuff - and since he was in the business, he was always on the stuff. Kiddy's Christian name was Kenneth and I was much more intimately acquainted with Kiddy than I was with Mousie Lawrence. Kiddy was an Irishman out of Dublin. Sixteen years ago, he had been a seaman who had jumped ship and had remained, without benefit of quota or citizenship, in the United States. Kiddy was a woman's man, and I had first met him when he had got into trouble with his first woman in this country (or second or third or thereabouts). He had been effusively appreciative of my efforts in his behalf - which was no more than fair since he could not afford to pay for such efforts at that time in his career - and a casual acquaintanceship had ripened into a rather ribald and entertaining friendship, until Kiddy had commenced to sin with the syndicate, and I had commenced to disapprove of the new ways and habits of one Kiddy Malone. Before long, Kiddy's papers were straightened out, a forged citizenship was forged for him, and he began to patronize the correct tailors, the correct haberdashers, the correct barbers, the correct booters, and he began to flash bankrolls as thick as salami sandwiches.

That's just a taste (see what I did there!?!?). I'm sure there'll be more entries to come (just as their will be more sandwiches to come)...

UPDATE: Thanks to commenter Duffless for pointing me to the winners of the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest and to commenter Sandy for tipping me to the trashy fiction review blog, Pop Sensation, written by 2008 M5K Dorkfest winner, Rex Parker (that's more prestigious than you think - I was extremely remiss in not getting my credentials in on time (can one be extremely remiss?)). Nice work, Rex.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

O'Bama vs. McCain

Here's a little ditty to get you pumped up for the third presidential debate:

I'll be semi-live-blogging in the comment section if anything interesting happens. Feel free to stop by.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

I'm a dork.

I love this new pollster graph with all the breakdowns and tools to manipulate it. I suspect that I would hate it if the blue and red were reversed.

UPDATE - I had to switch from the interactive graph to a picture because it was causing VTK loading delays. Go to to see the interactive graph and dork out on manipulating the tools function. Or enjoy the state-by-state, updated-daily, color-coded electoral breakdown from I put a link to this one in the right margin. And if you're a total addict, check out the data from the links underneath the chart. But I guess I don't need to tell you all this if you're a total addict. I like the cartogram myself.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Welcome to the Bill Walker Era

Welcome to the next generation of Boston Celtics basketball hero/crazyman: rookie Bill Walker, monster dunker, uninhibited urinater. He was rumored to have been a good pick, if not a steal, in the NBA draft when the Celtics picked him up after several teams passed on him, presumably because of his recent knee surgery. He looked pretty good in his first NBA preseason game, throwing down back-to-back, athletic, monster dunks. Here is the second one, which sent the crowd and the Celtics bench into a tizzy:

Then the other day I read an article about him and his dunks which sent me to youtube to check out some more of his jams. I was clicking through the related videos on the right margin when I noticed one that was titled "Bill Walker pees on a towel" or something. Not being interested in the watersports, I passed and clicked on another dunk highlight video. Then I saw another similar title. And another. The images all looked like they were on the court, so I had to check it out. There's no way he pissed himself in a game and I missed it. Could it be? All of the videos were shot from the stands without zoom or commentary so you couldn't really tell what was going on. So I googled "Bill Walker pees" and checked out the deadspin link (they're all over this sort of weird sports news) Amazingly, it appears that with seconds left in a close college game, Bill Walker decided that he couldn't hold it, shoved some towels down his shorts, in front of 15,000 people, and drained the weasel. No stagefright there. Wow. How did I miss this story?

And now today, youtube is buzzing with this video about him in their most recent preseason game against the Houston Rockets. Not as outlandish as pissing on some towels in front of a packed house, but some pretty punchy play against the new team of Ron Artest. (keep in mind that this is a Rockets' broadcast)

There's not going to be any shortage of intensity in the Celtics' quest to repeat.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

That One v.2

A VTK and TPS Collaboration:

I've been bested:

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

"that one"

My favorite part of tonight's debate:

David Brent.

from kos:

Presidential Debate II - It's The Economy, Stupid Keating Five Guy

For the full story on The Maverick, see

Johnny McCain loves him a good townhall. Wonder what the carefully selected and screened regular folks will ask about tonight. The economy? Are we still on about that?

(no live blog tonight, but I'll be online if anyone cares to comment)

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Live Blogging the VP Debate

12:50 - Tune in tonight as VTK live blogs the most anticipated VP debate in decades.

6:00 - 3 hours til showtime. I'm warming up the oil and getting the popcorn kernels out for pregame. This is like Superbowl Sunday. Several of my friends around the country have told me they're throwing or attending debate parties. lc in DC is serving milk (with kahlua (sp?)) and cookies and playing Palin Bingo. It turns out that her beverage choice is a partisan one: milk is the official state beverage of Joe Biden's Delaware. I suggested that she balance things out by also serving the state beverage of Alaska: moose blood. Speaking of "the horror", here's Talking Points Memo's greatest hits of the recent interviews with the woman who actuarial tables say would have a 1 in 6.5 chance of becoming president if 72 year old McCain wins (1 in 3 over 2 terms):

"so committed". We should be so lucky.

And for your further pre-debate entertainment, check out some "hot pics" from Biden's debate camp with Jennifer Granholm, where he's learning not to make girls cry. That's Jennifer Granholm, governor of Michigan, where McCain decided to concede the state today (wow).

7:00 - 120 minutes until kickoff. Let the fumbling begin. For your 8 PM EST pregame viewing pleasure, I recommend either PBS's "Debating Our Destiny II" (in which Jim Lehrer will be interviewing past and present candidates about their debate performances), the reruns of yesterday's Daily Show and Colbert Report on Comedy Central, or MyTV's highlights of Wrestlemania XXIV, featuring Triple H, Undertaker, Ric Flair, Floyd Mayweather Jr., and Snoop Dogg.

8:55 - 5 minutes! 5 minutes! What's going to happen? Could be anything. Probably the scariest possibility is that it will be boring. That would be quite a disappointment, considering the candidates involved. Ultimately, something really major, a really major gaffe, would have to happen to have a significant effect on the race. My prediction is that Palin comes off much better than she has in the Gibson and Couric interviews. And that it doesn't matter.

8:59 - I'm looking at the set right now. No table. I thought there was going to be a table. 30 seconds...

9:02 - "The audience has promised to be polite" what? Here they come.

9:04 - Very cordial. "can I call you Joe?", she asks. People will like that. Not that significant though. I'm nitpicking.

9:08 - hold serve. hold serve.

9:10 - Sean and Becky are playing Palin Bingo right now and I hear lots of X's already.

9:12 - She's doing well. Drat. The staring into the camera is getting a little creepy though. Joe's staying on message. Even keel, Joe, even keel.

9:15 - Her voice is shaky. I am nitpicking again? She's nervous, but people will probably identify with that. Be careful not to pick on the nervous girl, Joe.

9:18 - "health care taken over by the feds"?, says Sarah. the "feds"? is this how "small town" folks talk?

9:20 - "I call that the ultimate Bridge to Nowhere". Nice shot, Joe. Bait bait bait. He's spraying numbers right now. Will she be able to respond to them specifically?

9:24 - Sean needs 2 more for a bingo, in three rows. Becky needs 3.

9:27 - ooh, another "rear the head" reference from Palin. Who was rearing and where? What? Was it in our airspace? This debate is really fast paced. Both are doing well. Not much drama.
postscript - Palin: "We need to look back, even two years ago, and we need to be appreciative of John McCain's call for reform with Fannie Mae, with Freddie Mac, with the mortgage-lenders, too, who were starting to really kind of rear that head of abuse."
9:29 - Palin back to "Energy". Surprise surprise. "East coast politicians" are the enemy? I think Hawaii is farther away from the East Coast than Alaska and Arizona. Perhaps their governor is the most qualified to run the world.

9:38 - Am I the only one surprised and confused by their answers to the gay rights gay marriage questions?

9:47 - Sean points out: she keeps saying "nuculer". She's obviously speaking to people who say "nuculer" not "nuclear". So much for trying to convince people she's smart.

9:52 - Still fast paced. This is not the farce I expected.

9:55 - Joe's getting angry. Settle down, Joe. Settle down.

9:58 - Joe's starting to get a little condescending. "let me say it again" twice in the last minute. Annunciating slowly. settle down, Joe. Was that a sigh? I think I just heard a sigh. Joe's fuming right now. Playing into her hands, Joe. This is how they get you.

10:01 - smug, Joe. Not good. Nobody likes a smug hot-head. He's practically yelling now.

10:06 - or people are going to identify with his anger. what do I know.

10:09 - Gwen brings up the Heartbeat Away question. oooh. She phrased it as a question about "A Biden Administration" but we know what this is about. Palin "Whattaya expect from a team full of mavericks? We're a team full of mavericks!" Insanity. "Gov't, just get out of my way" You mean like on Wall Street?

10:13 - "say it ain't so, Joe, there you go again", and "aw, doggone it", in 10 seconds. ARE YOU KIDDING ME? She is so full of shit. She's like a trained seal with her talking points and the lingo. Except seals can't talk. And maybe she shouldn't either.
postscript - (it's tough to transcript this stuff on the fly):
PALIN: Say it ain't so, Joe, there you go again pointing backwards again. You preferenced your whole comment with the Bush administration. Now doggone it, let's look ahead and tell Americans what we have to plan to do for them in the future. You mentioned education and I'm glad you did. I know education you are passionate about with your wife being a teacher for 30 years, and god bless her. Her reward is in heaven, right? I say, too, with education, America needs to be putting a lot more focus on that and our schools have got to be really ramped up in terms of the funding that they are deserving. Teachers needed to be paid more. I come from a house full of school teachers. My grandma was, my dad who is in the audience today, he's a schoolteacher, had been for many years. My brother, who I think is the best schoolteacher in the year, and here's a shout-out to all those third graders at Gladys Wood Elementary School, you get extra credit for watching the debate.
10:14 - Bingo on "Special Needs"! Sean wins!

10:16 - is it crass or sexist of me to recognize that she keeps saying that John McCain "tapped" her? It's not just her. Katie Couric said it. Should we be using that word? I'm sorry, but it's such a sexual reference ("tap that ass").

10:18 - she just said it again. Maybe I'm being a little overly Freudian here, but part of the whole point of her selection is to add some virility to McOldie.

10:22 - powerful powerful "I understand what it's like to raise two kids as a single parent" line (or something like that) from Biden, followed by him collecting himself for a second. change in tone in the debate.

10:23 - and Palin misses it. right back to the talking points with the smug smile.

cold, Sarah. cold.

10:26 - here's the [experience] difference folks: [fighting] the confirmation of Bork vs. [dealing with] the budget of a 5000 person town. There's your experience difference.

10:29 - Palin's closing statement - she mentions how much she enjoys this and prefers it to the "filter" of the mainstream media. classic. trying to erase the interviews with Gibson and Couric. Not going to work. Overly dramatic ending by her. will it play in Peoria? dunno. Indiana's a swing state. She didn't bomb tonight.

10:32 - Biden's closing statement - standard. good. He didn't fuck up. Got a little heated there for a bit, but pulled it back together.

End of debate. Let the punditry and spin begin!

Post-debate analysis: I thought it was an interesting debate, but not in that crazy circus way that was definitely possible. Ultimately, it was a wash, which might be considered a "win" for Palin. But Ultimately Part Two, it doesn't matter that much - it's a VP debate. I think she stopped the hemorrhaging, but not all the bleeding. She's less of a problem for McCain now (ie less than a huge problem), but I'm not sure she helped him at all. She appealed to the people who already like her, the conservative base, but I don't know how many independents show won over (or back). A lot of "darn right", "you betcha", "I'm not from Washington", etc. It's going to play with some people for sure. We'll see.

This was a good line from Biden: "I haven't heard anything yet. I haven't heard ... It may be. But so far, his policies are the same as George Bush's." He also did well with the pushback on the
maverick label.

And what about Palin's suggestion that the Vice President should have more power? Constitution gave her extra power? Is this a talking point, a mutilated talking point, or her brazen power hunger? (has she even read the Constitution?) Is it not clear how the only aim of this person is power?

here's the quote (and see video below):
I'm thankful the Constitution would allow a bit more authority given to the vice president if that vice president so chose to exert it in working with the Senate and making sure that we are supportive of the president's policies and making sure too that our president understands what our strengths are.

Howard Fineman: Sarah Palin was "a wolverine attacking the pant leg of a passer-by" (wasn't meant as a compliment, but aren't wolverines bad asses? or am I just a U of Michigan fan? I guess a human could just kick a wolverine away if it came down to it) "but she in no way distanced her ticket from the Bush Administration, which was the Biden goal ... a rapid pace, a frantic pace, but she didn't defend or distance her ticket from Bush"

Interesting analysis from right-of-center Harvard professor David Gergen.

cbs poll: (Uncommitted Voters who watched the debate)
46% of uncommitted voters who watched the debate tonight thought Joe Biden was the winner. 21% thought Sarah Palin won, 33% thought it was a draw… 98% after the debate saw [Biden] as knowledgeable (79% before the debate).

cnn poll: A national poll of people who watched the vice presidential debate suggests that Democratic Sen. Joe Biden won but also hints that Republican Gov. Sarah Palin exceeded expectations ... 51% of those polled thought Biden did the best job in Thursday night's debate, while 36% thought Palin did the best job ... But respondents said the folksy Palin was more likable, scoring 54% to Biden's 36% ... But on the question of the candidates' qualifications to assume the presidency, 87% of the people polled said Biden is qualified while only 42% said Palin is qualified.

It was, as billed, an interesting debate.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Just what are "the fundamentals" of the American economy?

Obama should be running away with this. The national polls are looking good right now (as are the swing state polls), but it shouldn't even be this close. McCain is an opportunistic liar (ie. he's a politician) and his running mate is a frozen hayseed. Get your popcorn ready for tomorrow night. Palin v Biden? Literally anything could come out of their mouths. It's going to be entertaining.