9/30/2004

9-30-04 - 4

9-30-04

I watched "All the President's Men" a few days ago. Classic, great, great movie about Woodward and Bernstein and the Watergate scandal. One thing that really reminded me of the present is the way the administration then tried to smear the "liberal media" for making up nonsense and going on a partisan witch-hunt. I think any time a politician blames anything on the media, it's a clear sign they're hiding something, they don't want the truth out, they're scum. This administration blames the media if it's a rainy day.

9-30-04 - 3

9-30-04

"The Newshour" , the old MacNeil/Lehrer show, now Lehrer only, is probably the most respected news show on television. It's also the least watched. People always say they want solid non-partisan reporting, but in the end partisan vitriol is what sells.

9-30-04 - 2

9-30-04

The presidential debate was tonight. Kerry obviously did very well - he can actually speak English! The more debates there are, the better Kerry will do. Still, I think Kerry made some mistakes. In general, he was too soft on Bush. Especially after Bush attacks, you need to counterattack. When Bush says you are a "flip-flopper", you must attack back at his ridiculous unwillingness to ever admit he was wrong about anything. You can simply say something like "I am able to consider new information and make a new decision; that's better for America that staying with a bad decision". I think Kerry's continuing to bring up the need for international support is a mistake (though Bush bringing up Poland was ridiculous. Poland? What did Poland contribute to the war in Iraq? Sausages?). In the end, if America needs to act to protect itself, it doesn't need the approval of the U.N. The point is that we were not protecting ourselves in Iraq. There was no threat to America - Saddam had no weapons, they were not able to strike the U.S., and he was not threatening us. Kerry needs to ram home the fact that the war in Iraq has made us *less* safe. It's distracted us and kept our troops away from where they could really help - Afghanistan, Sudan, Israel/Palestine, Iran, N. Korea, Syria, Chechnya, Indonesia, The Phillipenes, Pakistan, etc. - major terrorist hot-beds unlike Iraq!! Kerry needs to stress that Al-Qaeda has been hardly weakened by this administration, and we are doing nothing to fight the real source of terrorism, which is anti-Americanism, which is bred by us using our heavy hand to meddle all over the world, as we did in Iraq.

9-30-04 - 1

9-30-04

Watched "Dogville" by Lars von Trier. Lars is getting rather repetetive; he's made some other types of movies (Zentropa), but the majority are tear-jerkers on one note. A fragile woman in need goes to someone for help; she trusts him, she puts herself in his hands. He is an ordinary guy; he betrays her trust and takes advantage of her and does something horrible. The rotten black soul of the average human is revealed. I hate the staging of Dogville; it's staged like a play, abstractly. It's a formal exercise, which I'm sure Lars got off on as a challenge to himself, but it's very distracting and ruins the immersion and reality. Fortunately, in the end, we are presented with a great moral moment. The moral dillema comes not in the film, but in ourselves, when we find ourselves happy that ordinary people are killed. They're basically normal people, and we agree, the world is better off without them. Lars ends with a David Bowie song, which is really bizarre; he did the same thing in "Breaking the Waves" with the whole bells in the sky sequence; it's just a really odd surreal ending moment that sort of ruins the mood the whole movie has made; I don't know why he does that, it takes your mind off the difficult situations he's created.

9/28/2004

9-28-04 - 9

9-28-04

My brother is starting to get rich, and is becoming a conservative. Over labor day he was making the argument that higher taxes motivate people to work less; lower taxes motivate them to work more. I think this is basically a ridiculous argument, but it's very commonly used. The basic idea is of course true in the extreme, but in the real-world case of small changes in the tax rate, and a generally low tax rate, I don't think it applies. Now, the problem is, that it certainly IS true here in America - our tax code does discourage real work. The reason is not the taxes, but because of a number of complicated issues. For one thing, we keep raising and lowering taxes. That means if I find myself in a high tax bracket, say 35%, I should just take it easy for those years; if some new administration comes in, I might wind up with some new tax break which will now give me a much better return on my work time. Furthermore, because of all the loop-holes and tax breaks, it is often more profitable for me to spend my productivity working on lowering my taxes than it is to do real work. Now that is a disaster for the economy - you have a lot of smart people spending their time just working to avoid taxes. The way you fix that problem is not lowering taxes - it's eliminating all the complication and loop-holes in the law. Furthermore, lowering taxes really only encourages people who are not working at full capacity to work even harder. That is, the only problem with high taxes are when people who are already very rich decide that working half time is fine for them. Is that even a problem? Getting more work hours out of people has been a staple of the American economy, but it's leading to disaster (and Americans already work far more hours than any other 1st world country). It increases unemployment (because fewer people are working more hours each), and creates other massive strains on society (such as parents being out of the house full time).

9-28-04 - 8

9-28-04

The New York Times is fond now of saying "liberalism has failed". I think it's their way of showing off that they're not a liberal paper (not that the conservatives will ever believe that). This is the kind of ridiculous un-supported slur that works its way into the lexicon and gets treated as fact. Yes, the major liberal institutions in America (conservation, job training, welfare, child support, health care, social security, etc.) are all in trouble. But, BUT - to say "liberalism has failed" is nonsense! Those institutions are the best things our government has done for its people - they are the crowning acheivements of the U.S. government. They need reform, they need less corruption, better funding, they need to be leaner and more fair, but we should be proud of them, and the liberal tradition should be proud of their creation. Do you realize that Nixon would be social liberal by today's standards !? (and earlier Republicans are down-right hippies!).

Which reminds me - the guys at work frequently make fun of hippies and tree-huggers and activists (as does South Park and countless other comedies). I have great respect for those people. Sure, there are a lot of loser hippies who joined the movement just to have sex and smoke pot and hang out (ok, maybe that's the majority), but the core of the movement is a really beautiful thing - the idea that love and community and peace and cooperation and our planet are more important than posessions and money and nation-states - that's a beautiful idea, that's what life is all about. To actually give up your comfortable yuppie life and go chain yourself to a tree (or whatever) and get thrown in jail for it, you should respect that. Yeah, maybe the guy is confused and not really helping the message, but he's trying to do something for what he believes in; he's not being ruled by his greed or his gluttony or his lust, I have huge respect activists and believers of all types, including the ones whose cause I don't agree with.

9-28-04 - 7

9-28-04

Lead Programmer is a miserable job. The creative guys don't really want you in the loop. You get no time to do research or innovative coding (if you did spend your time on un-necessary research, you'd be a bad lead). Everyone around you is so irresponsible, you have to spend half your time policing people like a nanny. You have to fix everyone's bugs and maintain the build process, police the check-ins, check up on all the content work, schedule your team and the content teams, deal with test and bug fix, etc. Most people who are actually creative and sensitive and intelligent quit the job. The people who are long-term leads are of a certain very sad personality type. They are generally very smart and hard-working and responsible, but also not very ambitious, not very creative, not rebellious, have low self-esteem, are often quiet and take abuse without fighting back. I don't want to be that guy.

9-28-04 - 6

9-28-04

This whole CBS national-guard thing is quite a travesty. First of all, people are incorrectly saying that "the democrats have been attacking Bush over his national guard service"; well, not really; Kerry hasn't said much about it at all, even though he really should have. The fact is, Kerry went to Vietnam and served; Bush pulled strings with his well-connected family, to get into the Guard (which he was not qualified for), and then he didn't even serve in the guard. Now, it seems CBS used falsified documents; that sucks, but it doesn't change the basic story. Alas, it's been twisted and spun now in a way that doesn't make Bush look so bad.

This is part of the standard Johnnie Cochran style defense. Basically your jury (the populace) are a bunch of morons. When somone presents some really strong evidence against you, what you do is find some little minor pointless issue that they got wrong, and you attack the hell out of that. Like, let's say Bush's policies have put us $537 billion in debt, and his tax cut has given $52 billion back to the top-1% of the rich (I'm just making those numbers up). Now, some democrat makes a speech and says "he put us $500 billion in debt and gave $60 billion to the rich". The next day you get GOP operatives all over the news going "this democrat is lying to you; how can you even trust him if he can't get his figures right? blah blah", then the news focuses on the attack and the counter-attack, and the original point is lost.

Another good trick I've seen a lot of recently is the "big announcement" followed by inaction or retraction. There have been some nice ones in corporate America. Some company is accused of cooking the books and financial fraud, etc. They make a big announcement, and the CEO steps down. That all makes the front page of the business section. A few weeks later, they re-hire the same CEO, and he gets a nice signing bonus. That makes page 5. The gov does it a lot too; some big attrocity happens, like the Abu Ghraib torture, etc. so they act all serious and "form a committee to investigate". That's all front-page. Time passes and people forget about it, and finally the committee announces its findings (hopefully after the election), which is a lot of BS, and never makes big news.

9-28-04 - 5

9-28-04

The New York Times is a pawn of large corporations and the US government.

They say ".. we have few options with North Korea. The Bush administration has been in intensive negotiations for two years...". Um, no, no we haven't. This administration intentionally cut off negotiations with NK as a show of macho strength, and as part of their policy of intentionally not doing anything that Clinton was (such as pursuing Al Qaeda). All signs seem to indicate that a humble U.S. negotiating team could have made a deal to provide security and economic development to NK in exchange for disarmament, but our gov didn't want to give them any prizes for their thuggery.

The NYT says "the high cost of health care pays for innovation". Um, no, maybe a little bit, but mainly it pays for profits in health care corps; it's also not malpractice insurance that's driving up the cost over all (as the GOP would have you believe) (except in a few specific cases). In general, it's the use of unnecessary expensive treatments, and unnecessary expensive drugs. The pharma companies and other heavy push their product on doctors (providing semi- legal kickbacks and incentives in various ways); the vast majority of recent "miracle drugs" are no better than the previous drugs (such as aspirin), but cost far far more; many have worse side effects. All the recent fancy pain killers are in this group, most of the recent ant-acids, and all the recent psychotropic drugs.

9-28-04 - 4

9-28-04

I know people who are seriously thinking of not voting because "John Kerry's a douche", basically. Um, okay, maybe he's not the coolest guy in the world, but are you fucking kidding me? GWB presides over an incredibly manipulative disingenuous corrupt organization that has led us falsely into a foolish war and is running this country just incredibly bad, which being constantly two-faced about it, and you won't vote him out because you think John Kerry doesn't have enough charisma?

Just in case you haven't been paying attention at all over the last four years I'll give you a quick hit list - GWB says "clean skies" and rolls back environmental law, and the EPA sues states to defeat their environmental laws, the gov releases the name of under-cover CIA operatives to try to quiet anyone who speaks out against them, the gov detains US citizens indefinately with no charge, and tortures people in Guantanamo, Iraq, and Afghanistan; the Justice department preps for a case to claim that the Geneva Convention against torture does not apply; the gov takes us into Afghanistan, but does not create stability, leaving armed warlords in power, and setting up a puppet democracy with our hand-picked partisan (Karzai) receiving US aid to campaign; the US supports the Pakistani leader Musharraf and says nothing against their country, while they harbor the greatest force of Al Qaeda, as well as the world's worst nuclear proliforator Dr. Khan, and a huge terrorist province of Waziris; the gov leads us into the war on Iraq, which they were planning for even before 9/11, with false claims of terrorist ties and WMD, which they pushed the CIA to find evidence of, they lie to the public repeatedly before going to war and after, and now Iraq breeds more terrorists than ever; the US does nothing about the major Israel-Palestine problem, as the Israelis continue to build a wall across their country; the US calls Iran "evil" and dis-engages diplomacy (which was working, with a moderate president in power), and Iran becomes more and more conservative and anti-US and steps up development of its nuclear arms program; the gov tells us "if you vote for Kerry, you vote for terrorists"; the gov tells us "really the media is to blame"; the gov tells us "if you don't support Bush, you're unpatriotic"; the gov says they want to roll back the tax cuts, but they propose rolling back only the tax cuts on the POOR! so of course all the tax cuts must stand; the gov says the tax cuts stimulate the economy, but the tax cuts were planned when the economy was still at its peak! the gov says they support the assault-rifle ban, but they let it lapse. The gov says they are pro-free-market, but they increase protection of steel and increase farm subsidies, because that plays well in the swing states. Our gov has run its military time table based on the US election schedule, which is jeopardizing Iraq and Afghanistan.

How can you possibly not be outraged and see that there is only one reasonable choice? And don't be a goon like Nader and abstain or something because "they're both bad". Yes, they are both bad, but you still need to choose the lesser of two evils.

9-28-04 - 3

9-28-04

Tips are an economic system in which the generous underwrite the skinflints. Do not kid yourself and think that this is the rich underwriting the poor; the rich are frequently bad tippers; in fact the best tippers are the poor who work or have worked recently in service/tip industries themselves.

9-28-04 - 2

9-28-04

The thing that makes a brilliant creative director is the ability to know something will work, even when the audience might say at first that it wouldn't. In the end the measure of your success if your audience is happy. It's relatively easy to take an idea like "he's a hard-nosed cop who plays by his own rules"; uh, yeah, you can probably excite people about that. The real genius comes when you have an idea like "he's a guy who's writing a book, but the events are actually happening, and he's having a nervous breakdown and gets caught up in the book"; the audience might originally say "eh, that sounds kinda crappy", but then if you actually make it and it's great, they go "oh yeah, that was a good idea after all". Anybody can have ideas; my baby brother's left toe is full of ideas; the brilliant ideas are the ones that don't initially seem great. The art of a great director is to be able to pick out the ones that really are great and to execute them well.

9-28-04 - 1

9-28-04

Decisions like whether to go for it or kick on 4th down should *OF COURSE* be analyzed with EV (Expected Value) in a proper cost basis. I mean, this is well known decision theory, but everybody is dumb. You look at like - if you go for it, what's the value? well, what's my chance of making the 1st down? maybe you estimate 50% for your team in this situation; if you do make it, then, what's the value? Value is measured as an affect on your chance of winning the game. If you go for it and fail, what's the value? If you kick, we can just assume that it's a reasonably affective kick and nothing crazy happens, that can be the baseline zero-EV case.

9/19/2004

9-19-04 - 1

9-19-04

"Seize" is a fucked up word. It stomps all over the "i before e" rule. The other main exception seems to be "protein" (and related words). There are many other pretend exceptions, but of course, you know the "ay" sound rule, and the "heh" sound rule (as in heifer and leisure), and note that words like "sheik" might seem to be exceptions if you mis-pronounce them as "sheek", in fact it should be pronounced "shake" in which case the "ay" sound rule applies (same for "neither" which is "n-eye-ther" not "knee-ther"). ridiculous link

9/18/2004

9-18-04 - 1

9-18-04

I'm a worrier. I can't believe the amount of money I could have made buying property, it's just sick; I could be close to retirement now !!! Now, I think it's too late. The housing market looks dangerously close to a major collapse to me. Maybe it won't, but maybe it will. In fact, it's making me think about getting completely out of the American stock market. I'm worried about a massive crash in the US economy, driven by the debt and lack of spending power of our consumers. Emerging markets have roughly doubled in the last year; unfortunately I didn't have the balls to get into them heavily. Now, I need a good opportunity to get out of the US market. A good value opportunity in a foreign market is what I need; I little dip overseas, or a dip in the exchange rate, and I'll buy out of the US en masse.

This is part of a principal of investing - you need opportunities that are safe enough that you can get into them heavily. Something like the Chinese market looks very appealing, but if you only put $1,000 into it, even if it goes up 10% (very nice), that's $100. To make big money, you have to commit big money. You make more by putting $10,000 into a plain savings acount that gives 2%.

9/16/2004

9-16-04 - 1

9-16-04

The way we vote by state is so clearly fucked up. It disenfranchizes the majority of Americans, because their states are locked up one way or the other, they are basically ignored by the parties. The fate of our country will be decided by loons in Florida and Ohio and such, which are not at all representative of the majority of the country. Those states have very odd and strong special interests, like the elderly or Cuba or old-school manufacturing. The President should clearly be directly elected. That makes one person = one vote, and forces the candidates to really address the issues that matter to the majority of the country.

9/14/2004

9-14-04 - 2

9-14-04

There will soon be a tyrrany of the old. All the major "1st world" countries will have a majority of elderly and retired people, certainly by 2050, some countries like the Scandanavian countries and Japan even sooner. At that point, the old can dominate the government and the laws of the country with their majority. They're a very powerful majority because they're easily manipulated by special interests, and it's easy to get them to vote in a bloc. They will enslave the young into paying for them and keeping them alive and healthy. It will destroy these countries, and then will be the rise of the "emerging markets".

9-14-04 - 1

9-14-04

It seems there may be a day soon when there are more words written than read. Why should we read someone else's words when we can make our own? I'm certainly part of the problem.

9/13/2004

9-13-04 - 1

9-13-04

Addendum to assault rifle ban rant - Most gun deaths are not from intentional shootings, they're accidental, mainly from bone-heads being unsafe with their guns. If you give them more powerful guns, it just increases the chance of accidental death. After that, the #2 cause of gun death are "crimes of passion" - not hardened criminals, but pretty normal people who go a little crazy with rage or booze or whatever and decide to shoot their wife who's been cheating on them, or their buddy who ran over their dog. The smallest fraction of gun deaths are in intentional, planned criminal acts. Again, the vast majority of these are not wisened criminals, but just pretty ordinary people who went bankrupt or somehow slipped through the cracks and decide to rob a liquor store or whatever; you can easily turn a pretty routine robbery into a blood-bath if the robber and the liquor store owner both have automatic weapons. Another nonsensical argument is that "the crooks will get them anyway". Well, yes, major drug dealers and such will have heavy weapons whether they're legal or not, but they are a tiny portion of armed crime. The vast majority are pretty ordinary people who buy their guns at gun shops. If some guy's gonna break into your house, it's far more likely to be a petty criminal who has no access to black market smuggled weapons. Furthermore, this country is quite intentionally very lax in its enforcement of international arms smuggling and dealing; if we would outlaw that and crack down, there would be far fewer heavy weapons in American, and all over the world. Another reason why it's dangerous for ordinary people to buy heavy weapons is that many people don't keep them locked up; guns are often stolen, kids frequently get at them, etc. The reality is that making it easier to get heavy weapons will increase the number of gun-related deaths, and increase the number of heavy weapons used in crimes. This also leads to an escalation in the level of violence with Police. Police now need more body armor and even heavier weapons in order to have an advantage, which is scary on many levels.

9/12/2004

9-12-04 - 1

9-12-04

I can't play poker any more. I get bored of the game and start playing impatient and just messing around, which is a recipe to lose your money. If you give me a real challenge against good players, I can turn on the ability, but just playing online or the home game against a lot of bad players doesn't keep my focus. Poker's a game where you have to be careful and focused and patient at all times. You might make 100 great plays in a row, but one single bad play can ruin you.

Yesterday I rode Old Creek and Santa Rosa Creek Road . Total climbing is about 6000 feet, but that's doesn't tell the story of the brutal grades. I had to get off and walk some of the hardest bits near the end. I was in excruciating pain from head to toe - not just in my legs, but in my stomach from eating too soon before the ride, and in my lungs, and my side and my back and neck. The weirdest thing is that the whole day after the ride, by chest hurt like crazy, it still does. Any time I breathe deep or swallow or cough or anything I get pain all through my chest - it feels like a broken rib, but I can't imagine that's the case. I've never felt anything like this pain, it's quite extraordinary!

9/11/2004

9-11-04 - 5

9-11-04

Cheney says if you vote for Kerry, Al Qaeda will attack again. Who exactly was president when 9/11 happened? Who could have prevented it? Who very intentionally dropped the Clinton administration's policy of fiercely pursuing Al Qaeda? Who has enraged the middle east by attacking Iraq, doing nothing while Al Qaeda still looms strong and terrorism has foot-holds all over the world that we do nothing about. First of all, Cheney's accusation is ridiculous. Second of all, it's disgusting. It's an abuse of the trust of the American people in the office of the Vice President, for him to come out and say "if you vote for the other guy, we will be attacked". It's preposterous, slimy, pure evil.

9-11-04 - 4

9-11-04

I've written about this before, but one of the most nefarious things about the Bush administration is the way they've used the "War on Terror" as a distraction from all the things they're pushing through with executive orders, that are getting no publicity, no vote in congress, pure stealth. Many of these are environmental rollbacks. For example, they've rolled back the Clinton-era rule banning "mountain top removal", an incredibly destructive method of coal mining. They've also rolled back the requirement on power plants to meet new stricter standards on pollution (this one's a little complicated, but the key point remains). They've opened up tons of National Forest land to road-building and logging. Another nice little stealth move they're slipping through now is this assault-weapons ban. Bush claims to be in favor of the ban, but his cronies in congress won't let it even come to a vote. This is a sort of disgusting form of political two-facedness where he gets to represent both sides. Of course if the ban lapses even briefly, people all over the US will stock up on assault weapons, and then when the ban goes back in place, they get to keep them. Good job, shrub, making America safer, my ass! Some other nice rule changes that haven't gotten much attention at all - the rules were changed so that media companies are now allowed to own several TV stations, newspapers, radio stations, all in the same market. This favors Fox heavily, along with the other mega media corporations; basically it continues the break-down of guarantees that there be some honesty and debate in the media. Another topic that isn't being addressed at all in this election is the horrible tax cut. The cuts to the income tax were bad enough - they severely favored the rich, and reduced the progressiveness of America's tax brackets even further - but the ones that are just incredibly clearly wrong are the cuts to capital gains and the inheritance tax. These two tax cuts are clearly only for the benefit of the rich - average Americans get ZERO benefit from them - and they are clearly NOT an economic stimulus. The way you get stimulus from tax cuts is by cutting the taxes on the poor, people who need the money and are more likely to turn around and spend it.

9-11-04 - 3

9-11-04

The right form of tax is so clearly a flat tax with a deductible. The basic formula is :

T = (I - D)*R

I = income
D = deductible
R = tax rate
T = tax

You set your taxes with D and R. Obviously T is clamped at zero, not allowed to go negative. I can't say exactly what D & R should be, they need to be tweaked to keep the total amount of taxes collected roughly the same. It's important to keep the discussion on changing the tax formulation separate from the question of changing the total amount of taxes collected.

My rough thinking would be that R should be 35% (0.35), which keeps the tax on the top bracket roughly the same. D should be something like $30,000 , so that anyone making less than that (eg. people near the poverty line) pay zero tax.

I would also propose that you remove all deductions - children, houses, etc. get rid of them all, they're just too easily abused. Also, all forms of income count as income - capital gains, inheritance, etc. all go into your income for that year and get taxed as part of this total. Furthermore, there's no separate Social Security tax or anything like that, all this money goes into the general pool and gets divided out as needed.

The result of removing all the shelters and loop-holes is that the rich would get a real-world increase in their tax rate. The poor would get a huge real-world reduction in their tax rate. The government would also save a huge amount of money by simplifying the tax code, you can cut the IRS severely. Furthermore, the American economy gets a huge boost by not having workers waste time doing complicated taxes.

9-11-04 - 2

9-11-04

I think I've written about this before, but here I go again. It seems crystal clear to me that the right way to regulate pollution is by charging companies a fee for the damage they do to the environment. Roughly, you want a charge a fee that's close to the cost of repairing the damage they do, plus a sort of "rent" for the fact that it's damaged between the time they do damage and when it can be repaired (so the rent is proportional to how long it takes to repair). The guideline is the idea that all the people in a country own that country - the geography and air and water of that country is really the property of all the people. If you fuck that up, you must pay for the damage, you must buy the right to do it, and the way you buy it is by paying the government, which is the representative of all the people. So, let's say you have a power plant that pollutes some amount, you pay based on the amount of pollution. If you have a very dirty plant, it may be economically non-viable to run that plant unless you clean it up. The penalty rates have to be carefully tweaked so that it's profitable to run a plant that's reasonably clean, but not profitable to run a plant that's very dirty. If you do something like logging, you have to pay for the defacing of the forest, some reasonable fee; obviously logging old-growth that takes a hundred years to be restored would be very expensive. If you do something like clear-cutting or strip-mining, the fees become very large. Something like mountain-top-removal would have astronomical fees, making it for all real purposes forbidden - how much does it cost to restore a mountain-top? The valley that was filled? The river that was clogged? Billions!

9-11-04 - 1

9-11-04

If I had the balls, I'd buy property around SLO. This is the best investment opportunity I can see at the moment. Not houses - they're way over-priced, but undeveloped land, just outside the city limits. SLO is growing, and it's going to continue to be a very expensive area. It's just a matter of time before developers want to buy that land from you and build houses on it, and they'll pay a huge premium. The problem is it could take 10 years before you get a really tasty buyer, and there could be a property crash in the mean time that you'd have to wait out. I think with the growth limits and such around here it's pretty well immune to a bad crash, and of course there are already speculators driving up land values here, but I still see it as a good buy.

9/10/2004

9-10-04 - 1

9-10-04

All this politics stuff just makes me so furious I can hardly write about it, I begin composing thoughts, and then I start to twitch and foam at the mouth and have to jump and yell and punch something and then I can't think clearly anymore.

I watched a little bit of "Out Foxed" , the documentary on Fox News. I couldn't watch all of it, because it just made me so mad. It's also all stuff I already knew; you just have to watch Fox for a minute and you'll see these incredibly disgusting manipulative tactics, blurring reporting and fiction, presenting propaganda as fact, mixing messages in an intentionally confusing way. The heads of Fox News, Moody and Ailes, intentionally spin the presentation to benefit the Republicans, and they refer to this as "Patriotism". The sad thing about this kind of movie is that the people who really need to see it are the people who watch Fox News, and of course they won't watch it, and they'll call it "liberal black helicopter shit". Furthermore, there's sort of a nasty media balance at play here. If you make some outrageous lie, even if it's not true, it has a lot of impact, a lot of publicity, it sticks in peoples' heads. Now if someone else comes out and goes "wait, he's lying", that is pretty boring, it doesn't even makes the front page. The result of the whole exchange is that people remember the lie.

A good example is this whole "Swift Boat" bullshit. Of course John Kerry served admirably; maybe his Purple Hearts weren't really deserved, but that happens all the time, lots of sort of marginal hearts are given. George Bush got a sweet-heart deal to stay in the US to avoid the war and didn't even show up for his National Guard service. The "Swift Boat Veterans for Truth" are clearly a hired gang representing the Republicans and intentionally spewing lies to smear Kerry. Reasonable people know that, but for the average American, the original lie is stronger in their memory.

There's sort of an interesting thing that happens in a debate. You need to debate in a way that sways your audience. Consider the difference between lawyers arguing before the Supreme Court or a Grand Jury vs. lawyers arguing before a normal jury of peers. In the former case, the lawyers know their audience is wise and won't be swayed by theatrics, so they have to win on substance. Before a jury, the truth of the case hardly matters - it's about who makes a more impactful statement, who seems more believable. This is the situation of politics.

One of the problems with liberals in politics is they're far too reasonable. The Republicans are destroying the liberals using tactics that the liberals find disgusting and cheap. The liberals don't use those tactics, and it's killing us. We need to fight fire with fire, we have no choice but to drop to their level. Some of the general things you have to do -

  • Unwavering party loyalty. Never say anything bad about anyone in the party. Of course this is ridiculous - reasonable people within the party will disagree and there should be a wide variety of views, but this has to be stopped. You must have a clear strong single message and present a unified front to the simpleton public. Individual people in the party can actually go around and say totally conflicting things, but you never admit that they're conflicting. In fact, you can promise different things on different days if you're clever, but you never admit they're opposing.

  • Never admit a mistake or a change of mind. No matter how clear it was you made a mistake or changed your mind, you claim it was what you meant to do all along. This is the Pee Wee Herman school of showing strenght - ("I meant to do that").

  • Use slanted/biased media, and don't point it out. This is one of the big failings of the liberals - they're far to virtuous about using questionable media. Michael Moore and his like are doing a great thing by countering the Republican message; yes, it's slanted, so what? So many liberals speak out against his reporting - don't do it! You never see the Republicans saying anything bad about Fox News! Rather, you should say things like "a lot of what Michael Moore says is true".

  • Create nasty stereotypes of Republicans and push them over and over. We need a few archetypes of unlovable Republicans, and we have to keep casting them in those stereotypes. The Republicans have destroyed the liberals with the "upper-west-side jewish, rich, out of touch, pretentious" image. We should counter primarily with one sinister image - the "fat-cat abusive rich corporate corrupt spoiled trust-fund boarding-school capitalist". Often that image is true, but it's important to push it over and over, even when it's totally absurd, or your candidate actually fits it more, it doesn't matter.

  • Politicians should be actors. Actually qualifications don't really matter; what you need is a guy who can believably represent the image you want - the common man, strong, masculine, decisive, etc. Qualities like experience and intelligence are as much a liability as an asset.

  • Use plausible deniability and proxies. If you ever want to do something that you don't want to take the heat for, have an underlying do it, and then claim you had nothing to do with it. This lets you get away with vicious, ridiculus attack adds against the opponent, which you should use without mercy. Attacks are also best done with a counter-punch, let him attack first, and then you counter-attack hard.

  • Repetition. Make a few simple messages and repeat them over and over, like "fat-cat Republicans are getting rich off your labor!". The shorter the better, and just keep saying them, regardless of their relevance or how ridiculous they may be. If you say things enough, people believe them. You can say marginally truthful things like "Dick Cheney's company is getting rich from the war in Iraq". Sure, it's not really quite true, but you also can't say it's false, and if we say it over and over people will believe it and it will affect them. Another good one is "George Bush is driving you into debt!", again sort of true, if you look at the average debt of Americans or the national debt, the good thing about this kind of message is it sounds bad and it sounds personal, and it lets people blame their own problems on politicians.

9/07/2004

9-07-04 - 1

9-07-04

Sometimes I come across as very negative. Part of this is because I think negative critiques are more interesting. There are a lot of famous book critics who are famous for tearing books apart. If you just write glowing reviews (even if they're honest) - they're not interesting. There's far more tension and controversy in taking something that most people like and pointing out how stupid it really is.

The other tricky thing is that I always think in terms of the "deltas" (differences) from what I assume is the baseline opinion. For example on 8-18, I wrote how I "hate DVDs". I don't mention any of the good things about DVD's (better video quality than VHS, great sound quality, instant seeking to labels, etc.), because I assume you all know them, so I don't need to go over them. I only mention the points that aren't generally accepted, which are often critical.

This same principal is at play in the news. Newspapers (and TV news) generally only cover the new developments, they don't give context because they assume everyone knows it. Of course, the vast majority of people actually don't know it, and the result is a very strange understanding of the world, because you are only reading the "deltas" from the past and you don't know what the baseline was.

There's a similar principal with stocks and happiness. The baseline expectation for a company is already built into its stock price. So, if the company does very well, the stock won't rise if that was already in the valuation. Even if the company does very well, if it's below expectation, the stock will fall. This can lead to a very strange predicament where a company has a great hugely profitable year, but the stock falls because it didn't meet expectation. Of course the same thing happens with human emotions. You build up expectations for something, and then even if it's great, if it doesn't meet expectations, you won't enjoy it.


9-04-04

A model for sports records - a real number is drawn from a random Gaussian source; this is the performance of an individual athelete. One is drawn at each time t. If the number is larger than any seen before, a record is set. What is the mean time between records, as a function of t? At time 0, the chance of a record is 100%; at time 1, the chance is 50% on average, etc. Obviously the mean time between records decreases rapidly as t gets larger. The actual mathematics is left as an excercise for the reader ;) The rough answer is that the mean time between records increases exponentially.


9-02-04

TV keeps you from having to think. Thinking is horrible agony.

It's funny watching preseason football, because it SUCKS. The games don't matter, and they play the 2nd string guys. But then I realize - these guys are still like 100X better than me at football, and yet it totally sucks to watch them? That must mean it's agony to watch me play sports.

I rejoice in the different speeds of seeing the world. Driving - you see a vineyard, a barn, a road, a cliff. Flying - you see a green square, a line of mountains, the line of the coast. Walking - you see a rose bush, a nickel on the sidewalk, a doorway. Biking - you see the wild plants between the houses, the prices on the road-side farm stand.

9/01/2004

9-01-04 - 3

9-01-04

It's funny what makes a really great rock vocalist. You need a good voice, you need to be able to hit a reasonable range and hold a note and things like that, but you also need a kind of messed up strange voice - fragile, frail, rough, gravely, etc. I can't stand hard rock music with really clean vocals (I always liked Lennon, not McCartney), though I'm also not a fan of the totally ridiculous F'ed up voice like that guy who used to sing for ACDC.

I hate it when bands have one lead singer and then they do that one song on each album where they let some other douche sing who wants to break out of his role as just a member of the band, and he always just really sucks bad.

9-01-04 - 2

9-01-04

I'm very torn about where the American economy is going. Here are the positives - 1) after the election, no matter who wins, the economy will calm down and stocks will rise; 2) the current high oil prices are a totally artificial creation due to speculators, they will come down soon, related to #1, which will boost the economy; 3) as China and India and Brazil and other countries develop, international demand for our most lucrative products (entertainment and knowledge) will balloon which will give us another brief bubble (that bubble will collapse when those countries replace us as the suppliers of those products).

Here are the negatives - 1) The American economy is largely driven by consumerism within America, which requires strong buying from the average person, which is in major trouble. Income inequality continues to grow, which is driving down the real wealth of the average person; the number of Americans under the poverty line is now 36 million and it keeps growing (many of these people work full time). 2) The housing market is dangerously close to exploding; people who can't afford it have bought in heavily, and then have re-mortgaged and taken even more debt to get more cash; any sort of down-turn could make this system explode. Already forceclosures are occuring at a record rate. 3) American consumerism is heavily driven by debt spending in general, related to #2, again this is trouble. Especially as interest rates begin to rise back to normal levels, the heavy debt of many Americans will destroy their spending power. 4) As mentioned in #3, interest rates must rise, this will slow the economy.

So, I have no idea really if stocks will rise in the next few years.

9-01-04 - 1

9-01-04

[someone said:] Whenever possible I favour ground up design, i.e. design that works to exploit what you can do well. Good designers are able to find those gems that a) you can do effectively, and b) players want. A good example of this is simulating car crash dynamics. I think that Burnout 3 will do very well, it will probably sell several million units.

This is an excellent way to make games (it seems to me Doom 3 was made this way). Pick one strong tech or design feature that's novel and interesting and then build up a game around that feature using well-known and traditional elements (car driving, shooting, what have you).

old rants