Friday, October 31, 2008

Culture: The You Tube Era - a pro McCain message by an Iraq war vet

Fox News points to a You Tube video that got 11 million hits.

Non-profit of the month: October, 2008 - Teach Overseas and Avenues

This month, I've gone to two fund-raising dinners to support two wonderful organizations.

When I think of what it means to try to live out the Christian faith, I think of the command by Jesus, "Love your neighbor."

In our modern global village world, that will mean not only what happens on the streets of Los Angeles but also in a classroom in Central Asia.

Teach Overseas has been sending capable and winsome English teachers to countries in Asia and Europe since 1981. America's place in the world may draw mixed reviews among those in other nations but Americans who want to serve others by teaching English are most welcome.

A handful of friends I've known over the years have worked through Teach Overseas and they have the highest praise for the experience. Teach Overseas knows that going to a far away place in a completely different culture is not an easy thing. Thus, they have a careful selection process, rigorous training and team approach to supporting the teachers when they are far from home all contribute to the sterling reputation and many success stories of this terrific organization.

Be sure to check out their video describing their work.

The other fund raising dinner I went to was for an organization that brings "Love your neighbor" to women who have unexpected pregnancies.

Avenues Pregnancy Clinic has been offering pregnancy tests, counseling and practical support to women since 1988.

Last night, the main speaker was Hugh Hewitt who had been traveling with Dennis Prager and Michael Medved and giving speeches about this year's political campaign. But he wanted to keep his appointment with speaking to the supporters of Avenues because it was more important.

He shared that the personal direct hands-on love that the volunteers and staff at Avenues and other pregnancy clinics who support the choice for life does more for the cause for life than political action. He pointed out that more abortions are done in California than anywhere else in the USA and that was why the work of Avenues and other like-minded organizations was so important. Thus, the Avenues leadership has taken the bold step of leasing an office in Hollywood right across from Los Angeles City College.

Many of the women who are faced with unintended pregnancies are in the 18-25 age group and so the location right across from the college puts a needed voice for life right in the midst of those who need to hear it the most. Avenues director Dan Steiner pointed out that within several blocks of LACC, there is also a Planned Parenthood office and an abortion clinic.

These two organizations are sending people to meet people where they are at. These loving servants are being the hands and feet of Jesus on the streets of LA and in the classrooms of the world. They are the face and words of the love of Christ.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Business: Immigrants starting businesses - like using worm poop as plant food!



America is the land of opportunity!

At the moment, people are nervous about the American economy but there is a dynamism that I think will help us bounce back!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Politics: RR's Cal Ballot Recommendations

I'll be preparing short posts on the November 2008 California Ballot Propositions.

Here below is my YES/NO rundown with links to my posts as they become available.

1A - No
2 - Yes
3 - Yes
4 - Yes
5 - No
6 - No
7 - No
8 - Yes
9 - No
10 - No
11 - Yes
12 - Yes

Update: In case you are curious, the California Democratic Party says:
Yes: 1A, 2, 3, 5, 12
No: 4, 6, 7, 8, 9, 11
No position: 10

The California Republican Party says:
Yes: 4, 6, 8, 9, 12
No: 1A, 2, 3, 5, 7, 10
No position: 11

Politics: Yes on Prop 3

This bond measure was placed on the ballot by the initiative process. In California, bonds usually get on the ballot by legislative action. However, sometimes the legislature isn't able to get enough consensus to get an item on the ballot. Thus, generally, I'd be against a bond by initiative. However, in this case, the cause is a good one: $980 million for children's hospitals.

The SD Union-Tribune and Sacramento Bee came out against it mainly because of the current budget mess in California.

Here is an excerpt from the SDUT:

California has a structural deficit of at least $6 billion a year. Not when the state is already on track by 2011 to spend more than 6 percent of its budget just paying off past bonds – much higher than is prudent and far above most of the other 49 states.

Unfortunately, bond propositions often sail to victory based on advertising campaigns that make it seem like they have no downside. Instead, voters should think of these bonds as the equivalent of the state's mortgage. California can barely make its payments now. Making those payments even bigger just doesn't make sense.

The SF Chron, SJ Mercury and LA Times have come out in favor of this bond.

The SF Chronicle summed up its decision to support it this way:

The hospitals are coming back to voters on Nov. 4 with Proposition 3, an initiative that asks for an additional $980 million in general-obligation bonds to complete the work that began with the passage of Proposition 61. The proponents of Prop. 3 make a compelling case that an escalation in construction costs and a surge in the number of Medi-Cal patients have combined to make it impossible to finish the projects that are in the planning or construction stage.

I'll be voting yes on prop 3.

Politics: No on Prop 6

Prop 6 is an initiative statue to require that the state government allocate at least $965 million a year for law enforcement.

When I examine propositions, I visit five of the major newspapers (San Diego Union-Tribune, Los Angeles Times, San Jose Mercury News, San Francisco Chronicle and Sacramento Bee) of California to see what they have to say. On this proposition, they all are opposed.

The Sac Bee says:

This initiative writes into law new crimes, increases penalties for old crimes, and mandates more spending for police, sheriffs, district attorneys, probation and parole. But it provides not a single penny of new funding to pay for it.

The Legislative Analyst's Office estimates this measure will cost close to $500 million in new general fund spending in its first year with an increase of tens of millions of dollars annually in subsequent years. It will require another $500 million in capital expenditures to build new prisons to house new felons kept in prison longer.

It means less money for schools, health care, parks, roads or any of the other state's important priorities. We can't afford it.

The SF Chronicle described its concerns this way:

While Californians who are concerned about crime might be tempted to approve any shopping list of toughened penalties put before them, they should consider that the current laws are overcrowding prisons to the point that the state is at the risk of a federal takeover of the system. Also, the intervention and prevention programs funded by this measure may or may not prove to be the most efficient and effective use of our scarce resources.

I'll be voting No on prop 6.

Politics: No on Prop 9

This proposition makes various adjustments to the criminal justice system.

All 5 newspapers I checked (SD Union-Trib, SF Chron, Sac Bee, Mercury and LAT) came out against it.

Here is SD Union-Tribune's analysis:

California's prison system is in such a dysfunctional state that many lawmakers and top corrections officials assume it is only a matter of time before a federal judge will finally follow through on his threat to take over the 33 prisons and their 170,000 inmates. A combination of overcrowding and a perverse management arrangement – one in which the prison guard union shares oversight authority with the state executives who are supposed to be the guards' bosses – has created a money-hemorrhaging department that the polarized Legislature seems unable or unwilling to fix.

But prison woes aren't limited to the state system. Twenty of California's 58 counties – including the largest ones with the bulk of the 80,000 inmates under county supervision – are being monitored by federal courts because of overcrowding.

Plainly, elected lawmakers at the county and state levels need to figure out a better approach. Our corrections system is broken.

Given this reality, the last thing California needs is a sweeping initiative amending the state constitution, handcuffing lawmakers and micromanaging the criminal justice system in a way that would ensure prison overcrowding would worsen – at a cost of hundreds of millions of dollars a year. But that is just what awaits voters on Nov. 4 in the form of Proposition 9.

I'll be voting no on prop 9.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Politics: One journalist laments the media bias

Read the whole thing. HT: RCP. Excerpts:

No, what I object to (and I think most other Americans do as well) is the lack of equivalent hardball coverage of the other side -- or worse, actively serving as attack dogs for the presidential ticket of Sens. Barack Obama, D-Ill., and Joe Biden, D-Del.

If the current polls are correct, we are about to elect as president of the United States a man who is essentially a cipher, who has left almost no paper trail, seems to have few friends (that at least will talk) and has entire years missing out of his biography.

That isn't Sen. Obama's fault: His job is to put his best face forward. No, it is the traditional media's fault, for it alone (unlike the alternative media) has had the resources to cover this story properly, and has systematically refused to do so.

Why, for example to quote the lawyer for Republican presidential nominee Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., haven't we seen an interview with Sen. Obama's grad school drug dealer -- when we know all about Mrs. McCain's addiction? Are Bill Ayers and Tony Rezko that hard to interview? All those phony voter registrations that hard to scrutinize? And why are Sen. Biden's endless gaffes almost always covered up, or rationalized, by the traditional media?

The absolute nadir (though I hate to commit to that, as we still have two weeks before the election) came with Joe the Plumber.

Middle America, even when they didn't agree with Joe, looked on in horror as the press took apart the private life of an average person who had the temerity to ask a tough question of a presidential candidate. So much for the standing up for the little man. So much for speaking truth to power. So much for comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable, and all of those other catchphrases we journalists used to believe we lived by.

Politics: Jonathan Alter (MSNBC/Newsweek)'s Scenario of How McCain Wins

According to Alter it will be racism.

Alter's key paragraph raises racism and tosses in stupidity.

In the end, the problem was the LIVs. That's short for "low-information voters," the three fifths of the electorate that shows up once every four years to vote for president but mostly hates politics. These are the 75 million folks who didn't vote in the primaries. They don't read newsmagazines or newspapers, don't watch any cable news and don't cast their ballots early. Their allegiance to a candidate is as easily shed as a T shirt. Several million moved to Obama through September and October; they'd heard he handled himself well in the debates. Then, in the last week, the LIVs swung back to the default choice: John McCain. Some had good reasons other than the color of Obama's skin to desert him; many more did not. In October, a study by the Associated Press estimated that Obama's race would cost him 6 percent. The percentage was smaller, but still enough to give the presidency to McCain.

Alter goes on to provide some state-by-state aspects to how McCain could win.

Obama could carry Cuyahoga County (Cleveland) in Ohio but lose the state because McCain does well everywhere else in the state.

Discussing Florida, Alter says: It was erosion in the critical I-4 corridor near Tampa and in the Panhandle, where the astonishing Republican margins among whites could be attributed only to race.

Regarding Virginia, Alter tosses out this idea: The transformation of the northern part of the state couldn't overcome a huge McCain margin among whites farther south. They weren't the racists of their parents' generation, but they weren't quite ready to vote for the unthinkable, either.

Alter doesn't toss the race card in explaining why New Hampshire (they have an independent streak) and Colorado (enough of the frontier minded are swayed by Palin's Alaska connection) goes to McCain.

Alter points out that the youth vote might not turn out: History held: young people once again voted in lower percentages than their elders. Waiting for them turned out to be like waiting for Godot.

My belief is that in the end the number of people who vote against Obama for race reasons will be cancelled out by those who vote for him for race reasons.

In end, some swing voters might conclude that Obama gives a good speech but they want something more tangible.

Some swing voters might think about the world situation and decide that it is better to go with the tested warrior as commander-in-chief. Thanks, Joe the Veep nominee for wondering aloud that the world would "test" President Obama with a crisis.

Some swing voters might be concerned at how the Obama people scoffed at Joe the Plumber while the McCain people embraced him.

In other words, McCain could win on the merits of the case.

Not in the mind of so many in the media ... Obama can only lose because of racism.

Politics: Yes on Prop 11

This initiative provides a new mechanism for redistricting for state offices. Unfortunately, it doesn't cover Congressional districts.

Redistricting is currently done by the state legislators. In other words, the districts are drawn by the very people who would benefit from those districts!

All 5 California newspapers (SF Chron, LA Times, Sac Bee, SD Union-Trib and Mercury) have endorsed this proposition.

The Sac Bee presents the problem and how prop 11 tries to solve it. Excerpt:

Every 10 years, the state lawmakers who have mismanaged California's finances and governance get a reward for their hard work. They get to design their own legislative districts.

It's one of the Capitol's most egregious conflicts of interest, and it needs to end. Proposition 11 would end it.

Under the current system, leaders of both parties meet in back rooms and carve up the state after each 10-year census. By dividing up communities based on party prerogatives, they ensure safe seats for incumbents or designated heirs, creating legislative districts that resemble a mix of distorted Rorschach blotches.
...........
The initiative allows citizens (those who are not lobbyists or former legislators) to apply for the panel. After screening them, the state auditor would then recommend 60 finalists. The four legislative leaders could then strike 24 applicants deemed biased or unqualified. From the remaining 36, the auditor would then randomly pick eight commission members (three Democrats, three Republicans and two others) and those eight would select the other six members of the panel.

Its time to change how this bit of business in done in Sacramento. Vote yes on 11.

Politics: Yes on Prop 12

Prop 12 was put on the ballot by the state legislature to issue $900 million in bonds to fund the Cal-Vet program to assist veterans to buy homes and farms.

The Sac Bee is opposed:

In better economic times, it might make sense to keep adding this benefit to the ones that veterans already receive, but not now. If veterans were unable to pay back these loans, it would leave state taxpayers on the hook for some of the $59 million in annual debt service these bonds will incur.

In addition, as of July of this year, there was still about $102 million remaining from past bond issues for veterans, so there's no urgent need to pass a new bond issue.

The SF Chronicle is supporting this proposition. Excerpt:

Californians have voted 26 times to continue funding this program, which helps build communities while providing a deserved benefit to men and women who have served their country in the armed forces. The Legislative Analyst's Office pointed out that all of that previous bond debt and operating costs have been covered by the veterans' mortgage payments.

There are 4 bonds this November 2008: 1A, 3, 10 and 12.

I think 1A and 10 are too big a reach and we aren't ready for them.

This propositions seems doable. I'm leaning toward voting yes on prop 12.

Politics: No on Prop 10

Prop 10 calls for $5 billion in bonds for renewable energy and alternative fuel cars.

Of the 5 California newspapers I checked (SF Chron, LA Times, SJ Mercury, SD Union-Trib and Sac Bee), they all came against this ballot measure.

The Mercury News summed up their concern this way:

Proposition 10 proposes to pay off bonds using the state's general fund - $10 billion over 30 years - primarily to underwrite the cost for individuals and businesses to buy low-emission trucks and cars. That's not a smart use of taxpayer money when the state's already sagging with debt and short of money to build schools, roads, transit systems and water projects. One-quarter of the bonds would go toward research, development and construction of solar, wind and other alternative sources of electricity. But $2.9 billion of the $5 billion in spending - 58 percent - would be in rebates to owners of low-carbon emission vehicles, mainly those fueled by natural gas. Natural gas is at best a transitional fuel to run vehicles. Taxpayers would be paying the interest on bonds long after the cars that got rebates ended up in junkyards. The rebates would include $2,000 for high mileage cars, like the Prius, even though buyers already are lining up to buy them.

With the Cal budget a mess and showing no signs of getting organized in the near future, floating more bond debt is something I'm reluctant to support.

As in prop 7, the move towards alternative energy is going to happen but the question is how much should the government push it with subsidies and to what degree free market forces be allowed to work.

On this latter concern, I'm somewhat libertarian: when the technology is more mature it will become more affordable.

Thus, I'm voting no on prop 10.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Politics: No on Prop 7

This initiative calls for California to use 20% of its power from renewable sources by 2010 and 40% by 2020 and 50% by 2025.

Sound great?

As for as I know, the technology is not cost effective yet.

All 5 newspapers I consulted (LA Times, SF Chron, SJ Mercury, Sac Bee and SD Union-Trib) came out against it.

The SD Union-Tribune called for a no vote with these points:

Proposition 7's key flaw is how it imposes absurd, unrealistic new deadlines for a massive shift away from present energy sources by 2025 - changes that would put a radical burden on Californians and Californians alone. It also inexplicably shuts out many smaller alternative-energy suppliers and mandates the use of long-term contracts that would make price competition among suppliers nearly impossible.

No wonder the initiative is not supported by any significant organization. No wonder its opponents include the League of Conservation Voters, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Environmental Defense Fund, the California Taxpayers Association, the Consumers Coalition of California and both the Democratic and Republican parties.

Vote no on prop 7.

Politics: No on Prop 5

Prop 5 calls for $460 million in spending on drug rehab programs along with various adjustment to the laws pertaining to persons convicted of drug-related crimes.

All 5 California newspapers (SF Chron, LA Times, Sac Bee, SJ Mercury and SD Union-Trib) I checked came out against this measure.

The SF Chronicle put it this way:

... none of this new money could be used for drug testing - one of the most critical components of a drug-treatment program. Judges also would lose one of their most valuable tools in confronting an addict who was balking at going into treatment: the threat of a short jail stint. Under Prop. 5, jail sanctions could be imposed only after multiple failures and multiple hearings.
.......
The formula in Proposition 5 would make a good pilot program in one or two counties to see how it would work. It's important to note that many of the judges and prosecutors who deal with these types of cases every day are convinced of its flaws. To bring it statewide would represent an unacceptable risk.

Sounds like a no vote is called for on this proposition.

Politics: No on Prop 1A

This measure is a bond placed on the ballot by the California legislature to support the building of high-speed rail between northern and southern California.

The LA Times has come out in favor of the project. Excerpt:

There's something undeniably alluring about a bullet train -- the technology is so powerful, the speed so breathtaking, it makes quotidian trips seem exotic. Perhaps that's why proponents of Proposition 1a, which would authorize $9.95 billion in bonds for a high-speed rail line connecting Northern and Southern California, think it would be wildly successful. They predict the line could draw 117 million riders a year by 2030, compared with 3 million now taking the high-speed Amtrak train in the densely populated Boston-Washington corridor. And they say it will turn a billion-dollar profit by then even as it keeps ticket prices remarkably low.

As a technophile, I confess to seeing the allure of such a project.

However, the LA Times is honest enough to admit it might be pie-in-the-sky. Excerpt:

The projections by the measure's opponents, led by the libertarian Reason Foundation in Los Angeles, are much less sanguine and more persuasive. If voters approve Proposition 1a, it seems close to a lead-pipe cinch that the California High-Speed Rail Authority will ask for many billions more in the coming decades, and the Legislature will have to scrape up many millions of dollars in operating subsidies.

The Sacramento Bee has reluctantly come out against the proposition. Excerpt:

Since this proposition was placed on the ballot by lawmakers, it meets one of our tests. Yet until California fixes its chronic budget deficits, it can't afford to increase its debt for projects that, while desirable, are not of vital necessity. In addition, the rail system that supporters are touting may not be as high-speed as advertised. Potential conflicts with freight service lines could make trains slower than those found in Europe or Japan.

This is a tough call. The state needs clean alternatives to air travel and freeway travel, and the Central Valley needs the economic development that could result. But if it passed, this proposition would take $647 million annually from the general fund that, without a tax increase, would have to come from other services. That's money the state can't promise.

In better economic times, I'd vote yes. But under the current circumstances, I think we should hold off. I counsel a no vote on prop 1A.

Politics: Yes on Prop 4

Prop 4 is an initiative constitutional amendment regarding parental notification for abortions for minors.

The SF Chronicle is against it.

More than a decade ago, the California Supreme Court clearly affirmed that a young woman's right to an abortion was protected by the state constitution's strong privacy rights. Proposition 4 represents yet another attempt to undermine that right. The practical effect of this measure would be to put many young women at risk by delaying abortion procedures, and thus making them more medically complicated.

The San Diego Union-Tribune has come out in favor of prop 4.

If a patient alleges a clear pattern of parental abuse, a physician may notify not her parents but any of several adult family members that she wants an abortion and alleges parental abuse.

The abuse must also be reported to Child Protective Services. Vociferous critics of notification retort that a CPS investigation would alert parents to the abuse allegation, and prompt more abuse.

Under what other circumstances would these critics contend that the suspected abuse of a child by her parents should not be reported to authorities? Particularly to authorities who are trained not to worsen a child's situation and can, if necessary, move the child to a safer place?

The main stated objection to parental notification laws pertaining to abortion for minors is that there are circumstances where that could be detrimental to the minor. This is a legitimate concern and this proposition addresses that by providing alternatives to parental notification.

The unstated objection to parental notification is that some opponents believe abortion should be accessible at all times in all circumstances and any restriction is unacceptable.

I recommend a Yes vote on Prop 4.

Politics: Yes on Prop 2

Prop 2 is an initiative statute to change regulations on how farm animals are housed.

The LA Times has come out against it. Excerpt:

According to a University of California Agricultural Issues Center report, cage-free eggs are about 20% more expensive to produce and cost about 25% more to buy. There is a growing demand, but it is still small -- about 5% of all eggs nationally are produced by cage-free hens. So California eggs would become more expensive, and many consumers would simply buy the cheaper eggs laid by hens living in cramped conditions in neighboring states or in Mexico. As a result, we fear the result of Proposition 2's passage would not be better treatment of hens but merely the export of their mistreatment. We recommend a no vote.

The SJ Mercury News urges a yes vote. Excerpt:

But egg ranchers would have until 2015 to convert to the new system, which should give them ample time to adapt to new practices. By that time, American consumers will probably be demanding that all of their eggs come from cage-free hens, which could give California an edge over its competition.

I personally buy cage-free eggs most of the time.

The libertarian in me says free market forces will eventually force all eggs produced to be cage-free and that I should vote no and allow market forces to go to work.

However, I'm not a hard core libertarian!

This proposition seems to be a reasonable push towards the goal of better treatment of farm animals.

Please consider voting yes on prop 2.

Politics: Yes on Prop 8

Prop 8 is an initiative constitution amendment to define marriage as between one man and one woman.

When I examine propositions, I visit five of the major newspapers (San Diego Union-Tribune, Los Angeles Times, San Jose Mercury News, San Francisco Chronicle and Sacramento Bee) of California to see what they have to say in addition to my own consideration, conversation with others and checking out other sources with opinions on the matter.

All 5 newspaper editorial boards are in agreement. On this proposition, they all are opposed and I believe they are all wrong.

The San Diego Union-Tribune argues this way:

With gay marriage a fait accompli, society has not crumbled. The long-standing institution of marriage is not in crisis. Californians have taken this change in stride. Indeed, there appears to be a marked shift in public opinion toward acceptance of gay marriage.

Words have to have meaning.

This is not like choosing Coke or Pepsi; a matter of taste.

Redefining a societal institution is a serious matter.

Marriage has been understood to be between one man and one woman for eons and is the foundation of civilization.

Koukl offers this explanation (emphasis mine):

Marriage begins a family. The purpose of family is to produce the next generation. Therefore, family is designed by nature for children. This description alone is consistent with our deepest intuitions, which is why every culture since the birth of time has recognized this. No other characterization fits what societies have been doing for millennia.

Families may fail to produce children, either by choice or by accident, but they are about children, nonetheless. That’s why marriages have always been between men and women; they are the only ones, in the natural state, who have kids.

Government has no interest in affirming any other kind of relationship. It privileges and sustains marriage in order to protect the future of civilization.

Same-sex marriage is radically revisionist. It severs family from its roots, eviscerates marriage of any normative content, and robs children of a mother and a father. This must not happen.

I urge a Yes vote on Prop 8.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Politics: Nov 2008 Cal Ballot Measures

There are 12 propositions for Californians to decide.

Will try to walk through all 12 before election day.

There are a bunch of bonds.
1A - $9.95 billion for high speed rail
3 - $980 million for children's hospitals
10 - $5 billion for alternative energy
12 - $900 million for veterans home and farm loans

All great causes but the question is can California afford all these things?

The California budget was busted this past year and with the current economic climate, one wonders if we should be moving forward on these.

Here is an item from the Sacramento Bee from May discussing the budget crisis. Excerpt:

California's credit rating is already among the lowest of state governments. When the state took out an $11 billion loan from Wall Street during the 2003 budget crisis, taxpayers wound up paying the loan with interest - plus an $84 million fee for the cost of borrowing from investment firms.

So what is the current California bond rating?

Go here.

In short, $53 billion in bonds have been approved but not sold yet, $52 billion have been sold and need to be repaid and the ratings are as follows:
Fitch A+
Moody A1
S&P A+

According to Wikipedia these ratings indicate "upper medium grade" and "Safe investment, unless unforeseen events should occur in the economy at large or in that particular field of business."

A Google search leads to the Federal Census site and if you click here and scroll to data sheet number 430 you get a pdf listing the bond rating for all states as of 2006.

If I'm reading this right, California is 49th with only Louisiana with a lower credit rating.

Whoa!

Politics: Media double standard

Politics isn't a pillow fight and so people are going to get their shots in.

But the overwhelming double standard has gotten so out of control.

Here is is an opinion piece that talks about it.

Excerpts:

I thought liberals were supposed to be good-hearted, open-minded and non-judgmental.

Tell that to the angry Left's favorite pinata, Sarah Palin. As far as liberals are concerned, Palin can do no right just as Barack Obama and Joe Biden can do no wrong. In fact, Biden is catching more passes than an NFL wide receiver.
........
I also thought the Democratic Party was supposed to go to bat for the little guy, the everyday Joe the Plumber.

Tell that to Joe Wurzelbacher, the Ohio resident who got his 15 minutes -- and 40 lashes -- because he dared question Obama about his tax plan.
........
The latest media template is that the vice presidential nominee is a drag on the GOP ticket. Pundits detect a backlash, not just among Democrats who love to hate Sarah Palin but also among women, independents and seniors. They cite polls showing Palin with an unfavorable rating of 50 percent.

So what? We're in the post-Clinton, post-Bush era of polarization where any politician with a pulse -- Sorry, Joe Biden -- will be loved by half the country and hated by the other half.

It's surreal. Before McCain put Palin on the ticket, he was getting 200 people at campaign rallies, and now, when he appears when Palin, he gets 20,000.
.........
Then there is the faux-scandal that the Republican National Committee shelled out $150,000 in the past several weeks on Palin and her family for campaign wardrobe, accessories, makeup, etc.

Many Americans don't see why it's a story. Fellow hockey mom Page Growney of New Canaan, Conn., asked The Associated Press, "What did you want to see her in, a turtleneck from L.L. Bean?"

Still, we're told, this tempest in a Gucci bag has some Republicans worrying that shopping sprees at Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue might undermine Palin's everywoman image. To think, just last month, the criticism was that Sarah the Moose Hunter wasn't sufficiently sophisticated or glamorous. Now her wardrobe signals the hockey mom is high-maintenance.

Just how many more caricatures -- some of them contradictory -- can we expect the left to throw at Sarah Palin before time runs out on this election?

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Culture: Do rich people pay taxes?

Being a typical middle-class person, I hear a lot of people complain that the rich don't pay any taxes.

Biden says, it is the patriotic duty of rich people to pay more taxes.

Obama told "Joe the plumber" that he should pay more taxes to spread the wealth around.

So, do the rich pay taxes?

They indeed do pay taxes. The long arms of the IRS isn't letting them get away!

But, in the internet, many argue about whether or not the rich pay their "fair" share of taxes.

Fair of course is a pretty subjective term!

But take a look at these numbers and see what you think ...

Found this item from the Tax Policy Center.

That item is a little outdated (from 2000) and I'm curious if the numbers are still in the same ballpark. But it would appear that $65 of every $100 collected by the Federal government comes from the wealthiest 20% of the population. What I don't know from that table is whether these people make 65% of the money in the US economy.

This item is for 2004 put out by the Tax Foundation. Again the wealthy do pay more but whether they pay "enough" is something people will disagree on.

This item breaks it down by % of income earned in parallel with % of taxes paid for 2005. Here, scroll to page 2 for chart, it said the top 10% who make 46% of the income pay 70% of the taxes. HT: Tax Prof Blog. But of course, this only appears to cover only income tax. We do pay sales taxes, property taxes, social security taxes, etc.

Sports: Pac10 going bowling

Looks like USC is headed for another BCS bowl game. They have an outside shot at the championship game if the teams ahead of them stumble.

I don't think any other Pac10 team has a shot at a BCS game aside from outright winning the Pac10 title.

So where do the rest of the Pac10 go?

From what I found:
Holiday Bowl (San Diego) - #2 Pac10
Sun Bowl (El Paso) - #3 Pac10
Las Vegas Bowl (Las Vegas of course!) - #4 Pac10
Emerald Bowl (San Francisco) - #5 Pac10
Hawaii Bowl (Honolulu) - #6 Pac10
Poinsettia Bowl (San Diego) - #7 Pac10

UCLA is currently in 7th place. But to be bowl eligible, they have to have 6 wins. They are currently 3-4 with 5 games to go.

Go Bruins!

UPDATE: From reading bowl web sites, it looks like Las Vegas and Emerald alternate access to the 4th and 5th place teams while Hawaii and Poinsettia will alternate the 6th and 7th finisher from year-to-year. It is not clear what their options are if those teams aren't bowl eligible. I suppose they can invite any bowl eligible team that hasn't been picked up by other bowls with conference tie ins?

Friday, October 17, 2008

Politics: Al Smith Dinner with Obama and McCain





Pretty funny stuff!

Here is an ABC news item about the famed charity dinner with what appears to be complete clips of Senators Obama and McCain in their stand up routines. The youtube clips seem to be incomplete but the sound quality appears a tad better.

Enjoy!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Sports: Spring is a little closer when you play in October

That was the sentiment in the Dodger Trolley as we trundled out the stadium.

Congrats to Philadelphia. They got the key hits and some great fielding to take game 5.

Thanks to the Dodgers for a great run in the last 1/3 and winning their first post-season series since 1988.

Will be back in the stands in 2009!

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Drat! Finally here t3 down 3-0 already. :-(

UPDATE: Turns out that I had no cell phone email transmission signal at Dodger's Stadium. 8-( I sent the two photos from the stadium as I was riding away on the Dodger Trolley.

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Almost there! At Union Station. Go blue!

Sports: Game 5, 5:22pm

Going tonight!

My first time at Dodger's Stadium for a playoff game!

The fans will be passionate but let's keep it safe and sane.

For some perspective on the game, check out Weisman's latest:

Don't make this game into something it's not. Don't even give one night the potential to destroy what was accomplished over an entire season. Tonight's game is not about character. It's simply about hoping to experience that joy of victory at least one more time before the sun sets on 2008 and, like 28 other teams, you try to do better next year.

UPDATE: Will try to cell-phone blog tonight! Will see if it works?!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Politics: Don't count your chickens before they hatch (Obama supporters) and don't give up yet (McCain supporters)

This political season has been full of surprises.

Clearly with the economic troubles and the Republicans having held the White House for two terms, the mood was going to be against any Republican candidate.

By rights, any generic Democrat running for the Presidency should easily have a 10% or bigger lead.

Aside from some blips in the polling (right around the conventions where both sides got a bounce) and the initial onslaught of the financial crisis (when Obama's lead got much larger), Obama's lead has been around 4-8%.

He really should be leading 10 to 15% under normal circumstances.

Some say it is latent racism in the polled voters. Some fear a Bradley Effect will shrink the margin even more when voters actually cast their ballots.

I don't know if there is a way for pollsters to guage such an effect. America has changed over the decades. Sure there will be some people who will NOT vote for Obama simply because of race and some will vote FOR Obama simply because of race so I figure its a wash.

Another thing I would imagine the brain trust at camp Obama is concerned about is whether the young voters will actually turn out. Historically, young voters are the least reliable.

In the end, it might be close because for all of Obama's rhetorical skills, what has he really done?

Clinton jabbed, Obama's claim to fame is a speech he gave in 2004. As the Democrat primary season wore on, Clinton began to win some of the contests as even the Democrats themselves began to show some "buyer's remorse" wondering are we really sure we want to put Obama at the top of the ticket?

If partisans experienced "buyers remorse," I would imagine independent voters might too.

Of course, if more bad news breaks and lands at the doorstep at the Bush White House, it will be a landslide. In 1980, Reagan and Carter were close until the very end when it became clear the Iranian hostage situation was not going to be resolved and voters decided to "take a chance" on an "inexperienced" two-term governor of California and Reagan won easily.

Are the voters ready to pull the lever, fill the bubble, push the touch screen for Obama who hasn't even finished one term as Senator?

I think that is why the race is still close.

UPDATE: Oct 12-14 Gallup Poll numbers show Obama up 7 BUT if you look closer, it could be as high as 8 or as low as 3 depending on which turnout model they use. HT: HH

The "black magic" of polling is the turnout model. Simply put, 55 people you ask may say they will vote for Jane and 45 will vote for Joe. But who actually shows up at the ballot box to vote?! So pollsters develop turnout models and depending on the assumptions of those models that 7 point lead could be actually only 3.

So Obama supporters, as Han Solo said, "Don't get cocky kid!"

And McCain supporters, remember, "It ain't over 'till it's over!"

Monday, October 13, 2008

Sports: Dodgers on the edge down 3-1

Second guessing the manager is an inevitable feature of being a sports fan.

Going to Wade after he pitched 2 innings last night had me concerned.

But the missed opportunity of the bottom of the sixth really looms largest: two runs came in and the bases were loaded with no outs and they got no more runs that inning.

Time to unleash every cliche in the book for the Dodgers in game 5 where Billingsley who got shelled in game 2 goes up against ace Hamels.

I want to believe! Think Blue! Go Dodgers!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Sports: Just like that, the Dodgers are down 2-0 in the NLCS

Game 1 slipped away on two bad pitches.

Game 2 got away in a couple of bad innings.

Game 3 is pretty much must win.

Weisman sets the stage with some perspective in defense of Kemp who has struggled at the plate, some observations about the pitching situation and some other observations of games 1 and 2.

He concludes:

There should be a beautiful sunset tonight. When the game starts, the scoreboard will say 0-0. Let's have some fun.

I have tickets to game 5!

Here's hoping we leave Dodger's Stadium that night sending the team back on the road amid cheers of victory!

UPDATE: Dodgers 7 Philadelphia 2! See you at Dodgers Stadium for Game 5!

Friday, October 10, 2008

Science: Nobel Prize in Chemistry for 2008

Woo hoo!

The GFP discoverers were honored with the prize.

Go to any research seminar in the life sciences and you are bound to see something with Green Fluorescent Protein.

Heck, even some of my research projects have used it!

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Politics: A Positive Commentary Piece about Gov. Palin in Liberal University Paper!

Wow!

A pleasant surprise in the Daily Bruin the other day. As you might guess, UCLA is a pretty typical left leaning campus and its newspaper trends that way.

Well, a refreshing op-ed piece appeared.

Excerpts:

Sarah Palin got the Republican juices flowing in a way that John McCain simply couldn’t have, adding youthful exuberance and an enticing personality that sent a tingle down the spine of Middle America. But after the initial surge of enthusiasm, there were signs that Palin would fade into oblivion as a one-hit wonder.
.....
Why does the left hate her so much? Because Sarah Palin’s very existence is repugnant and frankly dangerous to the Democratic Party. The ascent of a red-blooded, pro-life woman to national office would deeply wound the party that capitalized on the women’s liberation movement.

Yes, Sarah Palin caused a paroxysm on the left. It was inconceivable – a woman running for national office who wasn’t part of the highbrow feminist literati. Is that allowed? Heck yeah it is! Doesn’t anyone remember Margaret Thatcher?
......
Palin’s performance not only surpassed expectations – it was brilliant. With the survival of the McCain campaign on her shoulders, and the media onslaught weighing her down, Palin’s courage was inspiring. She proved the case for McCain and put his vision in perspective for “Joe Six-Pack,” all the while exuding the confidence and capability of a veteran politician.

I could just see the media’s skeptical smile degenerate into a blank stare as they watched her knock Hillary Clinton off her pedestal as the reigning female political protagonist.

Palin should not have to answer whether she’s ready to be president on Inauguration Day. Obama has dodged that question, even though he is running on the top of the ticket, and his competence is still in question.

But even if she were required to, this red-blooded American woman has the instincts, the guts, the charisma and, despite what anyone says, the most executive experience of any candidate in the election.

Hooray!

Monday, October 06, 2008

Science: Nobel Prize in Medicine for 2008

The prize has been announced today. See the press release from the Nobel Foundation.

Luc Montagnier and Francoise Barre-Sinoussi, who identified the AIDS virus, split the prize with Harald zur Hausen'rk, who identified the virus behind cervical cancer.

Part of my molecular biology research life involved HIV/AIDS work in two different laboratories.

We all knew someday, the Nobel Prize would go to the discoverers of HIV. It was a question of when and whether or not the controversial Bob Gallo of NIH would also be recognized. Gallo was not mentioned in the press release.

Update: Here is a news summary from Science Magazine regarding the Nobel Prize announcement with comments from Gallo.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Politics: One of the reasons politics is poisoned in America

In lunch or dinnertime conversations, people lament the fighting between the political parties.

Indeed, on some issues, it is pretty much schoolyard level taunting. For those matters, I often feel "a plague on both their houses."

An issue which I think is a serious issue is ID checks for voting.

Here is an example where the two sides take completely opposite views and I don't see where compromise is even possible.

One side says this is voter intimidation.

The other side says it is to prevent voter fraud.

Who would be for voter intimidation? Who is for voter fraud?

Well, see below ...

Tucker of Atlanta Journal Constitution says ...

In campaign seasons such as this, when victory may turn on a handful of votes, none of those claims is more important to Republican activists than overhyped allegations of voter fraud.

During the past decade, GOP-dominated state legislatures across the country have used assertions of mischief at the ballot box to push through harsh voter ID laws. Republican strategists have also pushed prosecutors to go after allegedly fraudulent voters.
............
The GOP’s brand is in tatters, dragged down by an incompetent president, an unpopular war and a sickly economy. So the party seems to be pinning its hopes on keeping likely Democrats - people of color, the poor, college students - away from the polls.

But that tactic seems unlikely to be enough to prevent Democrats from gaining seats in Congress, if not the White House. Democrats are registering in record numbers, and the GOP can’t intimidate or eliminate enough of them to make a difference.

The stench of corruption and cynicism emanating from the effort to disenfranchise voters is finally too heavy to ignore. The GOP is just ensuring that the tarnish on its brand becomes permanent.

Thus, in the eyes of Tucker, efforts to check IDs for voting is voter intimidation and is prime evidence of GOP corruption.

On the other hand, Fund at the NY Post says ...

The issue of photo ID has become symbolic of the clash of values on election standards. Supporters say it is bizarre that most states don't require a photo ID to vote, at a time when one is needed to buy an airline ticket, rent a video or cash a check. A Rasmussen Research poll found 82% of Americans believed voters should show photo ID, including 70% of Obama voters. But liberal groups insist that even laws that allow voters to use a paycheck or utility bill as ID discriminate against minority voters and could lead to "profiling."

But when voters are disfranchised by the counting of improperly cast ballots or outright fraud, their civil rights are violated just as surely as if they were prevented from voting. The integrity of the ballot box is just as important to the credibility of elections as access to it.
........
Even after Florida 2000, the media tend to downplay or ignore stories of election incompetence, manipulation or theft. Allowing such abuses to vanish into an informational black hole in effect legitimizes them. Should "anything goes" continue to accepted as an election standard, voters may wake up to a crisis even bigger than the 2000 Florida folly. Perhaps then it will demand to know why more wasn't done to fix the system before it failed again. That's why officials need to enforce whatever safeguards we have this year - and then lobby hard for better voter education and protections against fraud in the future.

I can't help but notice how Fund doesn't resort to name calling like Tucker.

As I see it, is it voter intimidation to try to prevent voter fraud?

Is it driver intimidation to have cops with radar guns to prevent speeding?

Voter intimidation is preventing legitimate voters from voting. Asking for an id at voting doesn't seem to me to be an unreasonable precaution.

HT: The two articles were cited over at RCP's 10/5/08 Sunday afternoon roundup.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Sports: The Dodgers go to the NLCS!!!

Wow! Dodgers take game 3, 3-1!!

Dodgers now await the results of the Philadelphia vs. Milwaukee series.

Go DODGERS!!!!

Friday, October 03, 2008

Politics: Veep Debate

Some instant reactions:

Biden's has a reputation for being a gaffe machine. He gave a pretty steady performance. He had a few verbal stumbles and some questionable facts but otherwise did fine.

Palin's reputation had been hammered into the ground with halting answers in some interviews. Thus, her performance last night was a success by reminding the voters of the woman who hit it out of the park at the GOP convention. Of course, she too had some questionable facts but she did what she had to do to reassure people she was up to the task.

The over-arching narrative however will probably be unchanged. At best, McCain-Palin may gain a point or two.

You really can't ask a VEEP debate to change the overall direction of a campaign. The prime example of that was 1988. Bentsen clearly dominated the debate over Quayle but Dukakis-Bentsen still went down to a big defeat. Palin can energize the base which she definitely has but its up to McCain to do his part and move the independents into his camp.

Other observations:

Palin's style is casual. For some, it won't sell. For others, that is why they love her.

Biden at some points sounded like he swallowed an excel spreadsheet. When people cram too many numbers into an answer, I tend to tune out. I subscribe to the adage, you can get statistics to say anything. Some will feel his number citations indicate he is substantive.

Palin was too strong when she said Obama-Biden's timetable was a white flag of surrender.

Biden was too strong when he claimed Cheney was the most dangerous VP in history.

Biden's job was to attack McCain and he did. I don't think he ever leveled an attack on Palin.

Palin's job was to attach Obama and cite when Biden disagreed with Obama and she did it well.

Biden attacked the Bush administration and drove the point McCain would be Bush's third term. Palin didn't make any effort to defend the Bush administration and stressed McCain the Maverick who will change Washington. If independent voters who want change conclude McCain is Bush 44 then Obama wins. If independent voters see McCain as the Maverick then he wins.

It is just that simple.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Sports: Dodgers take game two!

Whoa!

Dodgers 10 Cubs 3!

Politics: 269-269, what happens then?

A casual reader of this blog knows that I'm a supporter of McCain-Palin.

However, I do strive to be a fair minded analyst of the passing scene. Without a doubt, Sen. Obama is ahead. With the struggling economy, an unpopular war, the mainstream media backing Obama and the GOP having held the White House for two terms, the tide against McCain is strong. The fact that it is even moderately close is an indication of the weakness of Sen. Obama as a candidate.

Without a dramatic shift in the undecideds for McCain, Obama will be the next president.

However, if a shift does occur, is it possible to get a tie in the electoral college?

Play with the states and it is possible.



What happens then?

The Constitution calls for the newly elected House of Representatives to vote for president by state delegations and for the Senate to vote for vice-president.

If you are teaching US History or just curious, be sure to get "After the People Vote".

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Sports: Dodgers take Game One!

Nice!

Dodgers win 7-2 on the strength of a James Loney grand slam!

Great pitching by Lowe, Wade, Broxton and Maddux!

Politics: How Gov. Palin Might Answer One of the Questions?

She's got many advisers in her corner.

However, if I were helping craft a response to this question ...

Gov. Palin, please respond to the concern that voters have about your lack of international experience.

I would suggest something like this ...

Compared to Sen. John McCain, I'd say Sen. Obama, Sen. Biden and I have relatively less foreign policy experience.

Though voters do value experience, in my lifetime, several governors have been elected president who also had to respond to the criticism that they didn't have extensive experience in world affairs.

I think what people are looking for is: what does this candidate believe about America and its place in the world? Would I trust this person to make wise decisions that would affect my son or daughter who is serving in our armed forces?

I'm proud to be an American. I believe America, in addition to being a strong nation, is a good nation. As such, we have the opportunity to help other nations out of the abundance God has given to us. Because of our strength, we have a responsibility to use that strength wisely to help foster peace and democracy for those who yearn for it.

I respect Sen. Biden's years of service in the Senate. I know that Sen. Obama has had to develop views on foreign policy issues in his role as a senator and during his campaign. However, I ask the voters to consider this: on the biggest issue of the last few years, Senators Obama and Biden didn't think Gen. Petraeus' plan would work. They didn't think it should be tried and thought it would fail if tried.

That was their considered judgment.

Sen. McCain was leading the way in support of Gen. Petraeus' efforts when it was unpopular to do so.

A McCain administration will have as its priority national security. We will use diplomacy whenever possible. But we believe effective diplomacy is aided by strength. I share Sen. McCain's perspective on this.

As governor of Alaska, I've had to make decisions about energy policy. Energy policy is an important part of foreign affairs and national security. As vice-president, I'll be working on those issues in particular.

I look forward to serving alongside Sen. McCain on the wide range of issues America faces. I promise you we will put country first in our decision making.

Politics: The Gwen Ifil Controversy

There is controversy swirling around the debate moderator, Gwen Ifil, because of her upcoming book, "The Breakthrough: Politics and Race in the Age of Obama."

Bill Dyer neatly sums up the controversy. Excerpt:

Ms. Ifill ought to have disclosed the plans for the book to the Commission and to both campaigns. Now, even with both campaigns consenting to her going forward, she still owes a duty to the public to re-disclose her personal financial stake in the election at the beginning of the debate.

What kind of outcry would their have been if Journalist Jane were the moderator and she were writing a book with the title, "Breaking the Glass Ceiling: Politics and Gender in the Age of Palin?"

Politics: Angry about the bailout

The people are upset.

The average Joe and Jane American made a careful decision about the home they bought or have decided to rent because they weren't in a position financially to buy a home.

Now, they see the government using their tax dollars to bailout people who recklessly bought homes when they really couldn't afford them and to rescue a mortgage lending industry that took foolish risks. The people are rightly angry and are loath to trust the government to fix a problem that the government helped create!

Of course, the financial mess is still out there, what are we to do?

Saw this item on CNN.com yesterday. Makes sense to me. What do you think?

Excerpt:

The current mess would never have occurred in the absence of ill-conceived federal policies. The federal government chartered Fannie Mae in 1938 and Freddie Mac in 1970; these two mortgage lending institutions are at the center of the crisis. The government implicitly promised these institutions that it would make good on their debts, so Fannie and Freddie took on huge amounts of excessive risk.

Worse, beginning in 1977 and even more in the 1990s and the early part of this century, Congress pushed mortgage lenders and Fannie/Freddie to expand subprime lending. The industry was happy to oblige, given the implicit promise of federal backing, and subprime lending soared.

This subprime lending was more than a minor relaxation of existing credit guidelines. This lending was a wholesale abandonment of reasonable lending practices in which borrowers with poor credit characteristics got mortgages they were ill-equipped to handle.

Once housing prices declined and economic conditions worsened, defaults and delinquencies soared, leaving the industry holding large amounts of severely depreciated mortgage assets.

The fact that government bears such a huge responsibility for the current mess means any response should eliminate the conditions that created this situation in the first place, not attempt to fix bad government with more government.

The obvious alternative to a bailout is letting troubled financial institutions declare bankruptcy. Bankruptcy means that shareholders typically get wiped out and the creditors own the company.

Bankruptcy does not mean the company disappears; it is just owned by someone new (as has occurred with several airlines). Bankruptcy punishes those who took excessive risks while preserving those aspects of a businesses that remain profitable.

In contrast, a bailout transfers enormous wealth from taxpayers to those who knowingly engaged in risky subprime lending. Thus, the bailout encourages companies to take large, imprudent risks and count on getting bailed out by government. This "moral hazard" generates enormous distortions in an economy's allocation of its financial resources.

The boldface portions are what struck me!