Friday, September 5, 2008

Jason just can't stop talking politics

But now that I'm back from a different universe, I have to write this post for a couple of reasons. First, I promised earlier that I'd say how much of this post was serious. Second, John McCain did something completely batshit insane maverick-y. First things first:

I'm serious that I don't want this to become a political blog.

I'm half serious that I thought it would be funny to review the campaign commercials as cinema.

I'm not serious that watching the ads made me throw up in my mouth. But they did annoy me.

I'm serious that I loved Mike Gravel's "Rock" ad, but I'm not serious that I supported him for President. Also, to my knowledge nobody else called his supporters "Gravel-heads", but that's probably because no one could find any. I think it would've been a good moniker (and I'm serious about that).

I'm serious in my generic support for negative campaigning, and I'm serious in my reason--that negative ads tend to be more informative than positive ads.

I'm very serious that McCain's first two ads completely broke this model and were utter, vapid crap. From what I can see he's gotten more substantive since then (if not more honest. Non-partisan has officially declared that the McCain campaign has engaged in a "pattern of deceit" regarding Obama's tax plan.)

I'm half-serious about not wanting to comment on the differences in tax policies (for the record, I'm in the range where the two plans have nearly the same effect on me, I prefer Obama's, but don't want to get into this debate).

I'm absolutely serious that people misunderstand the Laffer curve. Laffer said that the relationship between tax rates and revenue is non-linear, and it has a negative second derivative (i.e., it's non-linear in a way that a X% tax increase/decrease would lead to a first derivative (i.e., a "higher taxes" = "less revenue" relation).

I'm mostly joking with just a hint of truth when I say issues don't matter. It's true that Congress writes the laws, but the veto is a powerful tool, and the President can exert a lot of control over Congressional priorities. The argument that stances on legislation doesn't matter is only important if the candidate's stances are close enough that you can assume they'd both get the same thing out of Congress. E.g., the policy differences between Obama and Clinton were essentially nil. Everyone has the right to vote however they like, but if you're a former Clintonite who now opposes Obama because of the issues, you are fucking retarded.

I'm half-joking when I say you should vote for whomever makes you feel better. However I'm completely serious when I say that's what people do automatically anyway.

More than anything else in that post, I'm serious that I'd want to know who would be in the President's cabinet.

I'm serious that Joe Biden seems like a good choice for VP, and I'd assume he'd play a close advisor role, even devil's advocate at times. If I could trust Obama to keep a pattern of choosing smart, honest, expert, people who aren't "yes men", that would go a long way to making me feel very confident in his administration (and to my thinking, obliterate the "experience" argument).

However, the VP's primary responsibility (possibly more important than inquiring daily if the President is still alive) is getting the President elected. And as such it's hard to read a lot into a candidate's VP choice. I grant them a lot more leeway to make a purely political pick, as opposed to their selections for key advisers and experts.

And that brings me to McCain's maverick-y move. He selected something we've never seen before in a VP. Not a woman--that's been done before--he selected a freakin' Alaskan! My friends, I used to live in the Alaska national crazy person refuge, and I'm absolutely giddy at the prospect of the particular mix of corrupt and bat-shit crazy that is Alaskan politics being paraded out for the nation. We will all soon learn that she's the most popular governor in the nation, but her state is also #1 in crazy!

First up, that crazy band of secessionist kooks that Palin allegedly belonged to at one time? (and now maybe not...but maybe her husband was...and at least she was friendly to them...but maybe that was just ordinary mayoral politeness....) I can't wait for the country to learn that the Alaskan Independence Party is the third party in Alaskan politics, with more registered members in the state than the Libertarian and Green parties combined. Hell, I was there when we elected an AIP governor (and then tried to recall him because he didn't call for a secession vote). The 'Alaskan first, American second (if at all)' attitude is pretty damn mainstream up there, because it's generally accepted (for good reason) that those idiots "outside" don't know what the fuck it's like to live up here, and they shouldn't be writing laws that apply to us. When I saw her at the "America First" night at the RNC, I couldn't help thinking that a real Alaskan would kick her ass for even considering putting the national interests above our own.

How about that whole "Bridge to Nowhere" (that Palin was for before she was against it)? Well, it's actually a proposed bridge from the 5th largest city in Alaska (Ketchikan) to its airport (conveniently located on an island, about a 5 minute ferry ride away). It had nothing to do with the 50 people living on Gravina island. And by the way, she didn't say "no thanks" to building the bridge until Congress said "You need more money to build the bridge? No, you can keep the money but you don't have to build the bridge" (and of course she kept the money--she'd be a traitor to Alaska if she gave it back).

Oh, and as for that amusing plan to sell the former governor's state-owned jet on eBay. Yeah, she tried--and failed. We still has the jet and the state pays for upkeep without using it.  
[Correction.  She did sell it, just not on eBay.  I read this story about it on the Anchorage Daily News website today, and didn't notice that it was a reprint of a story from April of last year.  Sorry.  I fail the Internets.  --Jason]

Oooh, ooh! And when she gave birth to Trig she flew back home after her water broke instead of rushing to a local hospital. Real Alaskans don't question her judgement, they're in awe of her vaginal fortitude.

I'm not actually trying to attack Palin here. From what I know, she's been a good governor. Her social views are pretty close to the extreme opposite of mine, but I haven't heard about that affecting her ability to govern. I'm trying to point out how crazy Alaskan politics are. I've said before, I regard politics as the opposite of sausage--I usually hate the end product, but I love watching it get made. And Alaska is the perfect place for opposite-of-sausage politics.

People will try (and succeed, easily) to tie Palin to current corruption poster boy Sen. Ted Stevens. Full disclosure, I've met Ted Stevens twice, and he seemed like a nice enough guy. First was in junior high when I was on the team representing Alaska in a national mathematics competition. Second was the summer just after I graduated high school when I was an assistant scoutmaster for our troop attending the National Boy Scout Jamboree (full disclosure--I'm a hopeless, pathetic nerd).

But Ted Stevens is nothing. I'm offering a million Internet points (cash redemption value, diddly-squat) for the first person to link Sarah Palin to Theresa Obermeyer! Here's a little help--there's a one line mention here that Obermeyer was at Palin's inauguration ball (scroll down to 9:44). I'll let you figure out for yourself why Obermeyer would be such an entertaining albatross. Again, I think it might be pretty hard to link the two, and I don't think it would actually hurt her, I just think it would be really, really funny.

Okay, enough. I just wish the nation had more than 2 months to learn about crazy Alaska politics.

But I do want to make one final serious point. Palin has thrown the "experience" debate into a whole new light, and it seems conventional wisdom is that in terms of experience the Republican ticket is right side up and the Democratic ticket is upside-down. But offers a compelling case that the conventional wisdom might be wrong. So the question is which is worse:
  1. Electing an inexperienced President. Note that he will be given 2 months between the election and the inauguration. In that time he can choose his cabinet and set out the game plan for the beginning of his term. He will take office peacefully, in a general spirit of goodwill, and (something near) more than 50% of the electorate will be (at least somewhat) pleased that he's President.

  2. Having an inexperienced President take office immediately during a time of crisis. Due to a sudden death (a la Johnson after Kennedy) might be more shocking, but also elicit sympathy making the job easier. Taking over after a career-ending scandal (a la Ford after Nixon) could be a worse nightmare, depending on how closely the VP is linked to the scandal.

I think it's clear that scenario 1 is preferred to scenario 2. All things being equal, experience is preferred (of course, all things are never equal). And, of course, scenario 2 might not happen if McCain is elected (in fact, thinking about it is kind of ghoulish). So the question really is would you rather take the known scenario 1 or assume the risk of scenario 2, and at what probability would you prefer the risk of scenario 2? Is a 10% chance of scenario 2 is worse than scenario 1? What about a 20% chance? Or a 50% chance?

I'm not trying to make a case that should change anyone's votes. I think voting based on experience alone (without regard to judgement, temperament, stance on the issues, who has the nicest hair) is kind of stupid. And I think voting based more on the VP pick than the top of the ticket is equally stupid. I'm just suggesting that maybe everyone has this issue upside down, and an inexperienced President with an experienced VP is preferred.

I'm still saying nothing is likely to solidify or change my opinion more than a statement on who would at least on each candidate's short list for every cabinet office.


Dadmaniac said...

Pretty interesting post. Alaska is all abuzz with Sarah-love. But there are some major cracks. Troopergate is really heating up and there were lots of letters to the editor today...and very few were complimentary on Palin. Like you said, Alaska is a strange and interesting place. You must have missed it, but the jet did sell, but not on eBay. It was sold about 6 months later to an Alaskan businessman for more than a half million dollars less than it was worth. So in some sense, Sarah actually cost the state money and gave a $600K freebie to some (Republican?) businessman. If we move after I retire in December, I'll miss the idiocracy that is Alaskan politics. Small minded people from a small (population-wise) state.

puppymeat said...

Ah, my mistake (about the plane). I read this story today, but I didn't notice the editor's note that it was a repeat of a story from April of last year.

By the way (back on movies), have you actually seen "Idiocracy". Excellent movie by Mike Judge ("Beavis and Butthead", "Office Space", "King of the Hill") about a future where idiots are in charge. Fox nearly buried the movie because it's so offensive to mega-corporations (i.e., advertisers), but then went on to market the drink from the movie. I've got a case of Brawndo in my fridge. It's got electrolytes!

Dadmaniac said...

I haven't seen Idiocracy but I heard from Lisa and Jon that it was very good. I'm gonna see it (if it's playing in Alaska). Might be banned, like books at the Wasilla library.

baceman007 said...

Wow, you have a library that bans books. Didn't the Nazi's used to do that? The best part is that now that we have the Patriot Act we get to have secret courts and police just like the Nazi's too. It's it nice when you have an image to live up to? That's not just lame, that big ass sucking lame (BASL) for short. Alaskans are aware that they are a US state right? Maybe it's kind of like Texas where they're not. Anyway, Idiocracy is very good, but I argue that it is not a comedy. Like most Mike Judge things it has a point about society. I know most people wouldn't say that Beavis and Butthead had a point about anything, but I think it's a commentary about latch key kids and bad parenting. It's also very funny. I think Judge, although he wanted to make a comedy, was much more concerned with getting his message about the dumbing down of our country out. I have to admit I love Alaska to look at but I don't get Alaskan politics. I also think that "real" Alaskans don't vote. Allow me to explain, I know that most people, being wastes of sperm, don't do anything for their communities even when it benefits them directly including vote, but Alaska has a ton of hippies in it that live on islands, etc. in the middle of no where. Literally, this becomes an issue since the oil workers have good access to cities and voting in general but parts of your population do not. So in general your oil working population, a population that would probably leave if there were no oil left in Alaska, seems to make your decisions for you since the hippies don't vote. Of course there are many sub groups in between here, but I think that about sums it up. I doubt a real Alaskan, who moved there for the pristine wilderness, and some even to live off of the land, would want us to drill for a 1 year supply of oil (if that) in ANWR. Still both major party candidates suck again, but we should never base our votes on party sponsored debates, parties, and commercials. We should look at policy.
This election is not about Republicans Vs. Democrats, it's about fucking morons vs. somewhat more reasonable people. Neither are good in the end, but at least the Democrats have a candidate this time that wasn't locked in a tiger cage paired with a VP candidate that probably damaged her child by not going to the hospital in time and hoped on a plane instead. So it's really not about partisan anything this time. The Republicans produced an old wacko, likely to die in office who's inauguration speech will probably be, "Thank you for electing me president, and I just have one thing to say. All right Vietnam it's time for some mother fucking payback. You bastards don't know the meaning of pain. Well I'm going to teach you. I promise I'll Git_R-Done." With a heartless, inexperienced bitch that talks to us about family values but doesn't even have the common sense to stay home with her family that needs her. Oh yeah, I've even heard the argument that Republicans like her cause she fires her own gun. Earth to morons, guns are not hard to fire. It is not an example of anything to fire a gun. It just means you were smart enough not to point it at yourself, hence you are still alive.
So in the end the Republicans just produced a bad candidate, that's all there is too it. Republicans should be ok with just saying, hey I like being a Republican, but this time my party made a bad choice. They don't even have to vote Democrat. It's my belief that most Republicans are actually closet Libertarians anyway. The point is that Alaska has a small population, so governing it means very little when compared with governing an entire nation. It's very beautiful in Alaska but that doesn't have anything to do with governing. Experience is best, but not when you have a pissed off old dude with his finger on the button. That's just a bad choice. Anyway, the real problem is that only about 23% of people vote and a large portion of them only vote on what they see on TV. So here's what I have to say. If you don't have the decency to do any research on at least 4 presidential candidates, yes including the 3rd party candidates, don't fucking vote. You're not making an informed decision, and I shouldn't have to suffer for you idiocy as someone who did. Fucking stupid people should be treated like a disease anyway before their numbers become uncontrollable.

puppymeat said...

Wow, good rant, baceman! The only point I'd disagree with is having to know how at least 4 candidates stand on all the issues. As I've argued before, issues are overrated. Also, as long as we use a 1-man, 1-vote, winner-takes-all voting system, there is a mathematical equilibrium that is two nearly identical parties. So reform voting (instant runoff, ranked choice, etc.) or stop bugging me about 3rd parties. Even if they have better policies they'll never win.

However, I'm all in favor of encouraging people not to vote. More on that soon.

baceman007 said...

I should say, before I forget, that I do appreciate our service men and women and the work that they do. It's not they're fault that Americans, not all, but enough, let the government screw them and send them on unclear missions. I would say that we don't even have a 1 vote system here Jason. We have the electoral college. So even if you do vote, you may not get a vote anyway. So yeah..... The last comment I'll make to try and sway whack jobs that might be voting for Armageddon via the McCain ticket is this. Even if you were for the war at first, which is a huge issue especially considering its drain on our busted economy how can you support staying there at this point? The Iraqis surplus, last time I looked was approaching 70 billion dollars, they have a reasonably good infrastructure now, and a police force and court system to enforce their policies with. If problems erupt the UN would probably actually get involved this time. Even the Iraqis have tried to say, "thank you please leave, we're ok now." Some of them have told us in less reasonable ways to do so as well. So in light of that the only reason I can come up with is that we want to stay in Iraq as a staging ground for something else...... Anyway, even a blood thirsty, Bush supporting, Scumublican should be able to admit at this point that there is no reason to be in Iraq unless there is something else going on that we're not hearing about. I understand why most of the top 10% votes Republican, but come on; the other 42% of you should stop voting against your own interests. At least until the Republican party stops shitting all over its own values. Smaller government, for example, what a joke. They created the Department of Homeland Security. Making the government even larger, communication more difficult, and brought red tape to a whole new level when what they needed to do was tell the FBI and CIA to cut the shit and actually talk to each other. There we go I came up with a way to make the nation safer, and not create a new Ministry of Truth, I mean department. Sorry, they just seem so similar now.