Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Surprisingly non-ideological policies

Obama Color by ~timmywheeler

I thought this article about the influence of behavioral economics on the Obama campaign's policies was quite interesting and worth a read.
As it happens, Thaler is revered by the leading wonks on Barack Obama's presidential campaign. Though he has no formal role, Thaler presides as a kind of in-house intellectual guru, consulting regularly with Obama's top economic adviser, a fellow University of Chicago professor named Austan Goolsbee. "My main role has been to harass Austan, who has an office down the hall from mine, " Thaler recently told me. "I give him as much grief as possible." You can find subtle evidence of this influence across numerous Obama proposals. For example, one key behavioral finding is that people often fail to set aside money for retirement even when their employers offer generous 401(k) plans. If, on the other hand, you automatically enroll workers in 401(k)s but allow them to opt out, most stick with it. Obama's savings plan exploits this so-called "status quo" bias.

And, yet, it's not just the details of Obama's policies that suggest a behavioral approach. In some respects, the sensibility behind the behaviorist critique of economics is one shared by all the Obama wonks, whether they're domestic policy nerds or grizzled foreign policy hands. Despite Obama's reputation for grandiose rhetoric and utopian hope-mongering, the Obamanauts aren't radicals--far from it. They're pragmatists--people who, when an existing paradigm clashes with reality, opt to tweak that paradigm rather than replace it wholesale. As Thaler puts it, "Physics with friction is not as beautiful. But you need it to get rockets off the ground." It might as well be the motto for Obama's entire policy shop.

Sociologically, the Obamanauts have a lot in common with the last gang of Democratic outsiders to make a credible run at the White House. Like Bill Clinton in 1992, Obama's campaign boasts a cadre of credentialed achievers. Intellectually, however, the Obamanauts couldn't be more different. Clinton delighted in surrounding himself with big-think public intellectuals--like economics commentator Robert Reich and political philosopher Bill Galston. You'd be hard-pressed to find a political philosopher in Obama's inner wonk-dom. His is dominated by a group of first-rate economists, beginning with Goolsbee, one of the profession's most respected tax experts. A Harvard economist named Jeff Liebman has been influential in helping Obama think through budget and retirement issues; another, David Cutler, helped shape his views on health care. Goolsbee, in particular, is an almost unprecedented figure in Democratic politics: an academic economist with a top campaign position and the candidate's ear.

Also in The New Republic: Even white supremacists don't hate Obama
Yet, far from railing at Obama's rise, Duke seems almost nonchalant about it. Self-described white nationalists like himself, he explained cordially, "don't see much difference in Barack Obama than Hillary Clinton--or, for that matter, John McCain."

Monday, February 25, 2008

Tanuki's Zen Poop

When Tanuki was a puppy he was such a Jackson Pollock and would poop in an amazingly Abstract Expressionist sort of way. I have tons of photos of his artwork somewhere around here....These days he's taking a selectively Zen approach. Sometimes it's hard to tell whether he's feeling more Zen or Tao in his poopwork.

Oh, he seems to enjoy multiple canvases for his work.

Panty Power

Panty Power follow-up: Unhappy Bad-Day Than Shwe

Capsized Crunch

Chris Garbutt's Capsized Crunch

BTW Baab is the #1 Google search result for "dick cheney as an octopus attacking".

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Politics Ignore Mode

Barack Obama by =julvett

Due to taxes and the general state of annoyance they leave me with, I've been attempting to practice Politics Ignore Mode this weekend. However, Ogg (who had suggested as much) sent me The Audacity of Hopelessness from the NYT.
WHEN people one day look back at the remarkable implosion of the Hillary Clinton campaign, they may notice that it both began and ended in the long dark shadow of Iraq.
It’s not just that her candidacy’s central premise — the priceless value of “experience” — was fatally poisoned from the start by her still ill-explained vote to authorize the fiasco. Senator Clinton then compounded that 2002 misjudgment by pursuing a 2008 campaign strategy that uncannily mimicked the disastrous Bush Iraq war plan. After promising a cakewalk to the nomination — “It will be me,” Mrs. Clinton
told Katie Couric in November — she was routed by an insurgency.
The Clinton camp was certain that its moneyed arsenal of political shock-and-awe would take out Barack Hussein Obama in a flash. The race would “be over by Feb. 5,” Mrs. Clinton assured George Stephanopoulos just before New Year’s. But once the Obama forces outwitted her, leaving her mission unaccomplished on Super Tuesday, there was no contingency plan. She had neither the boots on the ground nor the money to recoup.
That’s why she has been losing battle after battle by double digits in every corner of the country ever since. And no matter how much bad stuff happened, she kept to the Bush playbook, stubbornly clinging to her own Rumsfeld, her chief strategist, Mark Penn. Like his prototype, Mr. Penn is bigger on loyalty and arrogance than strategic brilliance. But he’s actually not even all that loyal. Mr. Penn, whose operation has billed
several million dollars in fees to the Clinton campaign so far, has never given up his day job as chief executive of the public relations behemoth Burson-Marsteller. His top client there, Microsoft, is simultaneously engaged in a demanding campaign of its own to acquire Yahoo.
Clinton fans don’t see their standard-bearer’s troubles this way. In their view, their highly substantive candidate was unfairly undone by a lightweight showboat who got a free ride from an often misogynist press and from naïve young people who lap up messianic language as if it were Jim Jones’s Kool-Aid. Or as Mrs. Clinton frames it, Senator Obama is all about empty words while she is all about action and hard work.
But it’s the Clinton strategists, not the Obama voters, who drank the Kool-Aid. The Obama campaign is not a vaporous cult; it’s a lean and mean political machine that gets the job done. The Clinton camp has been the slacker in this race, more words than action, and its candidate’s message, for all its purported high-mindedness, was and is self-immolating.

The gap in hard work between the two campaigns was clear well before Feb. 5. Mrs. Clinton threw as much as $25 million at the
Iowa caucuses without ever matching Mr. Obama’s organizational strength. In South Carolina, where last fall she was up 20 percentage points in the polls, she relied on top-down endorsements and the patina of inevitability, while the Obama campaign built a landslide-winning organization from scratch at the grass roots. In Kansas, three paid Obama organizers had the field to themselves for three months; ultimately Obama staff members outnumbered Clinton staff members there 18 to 3.
In the
last battleground, Wisconsin, the Clinton campaign was six days behind Mr. Obama in putting up ads and had only four campaign offices to his 11. Even as Mrs. Clinton clings to her latest firewall — the March 4 contests — she is still being outhustled. Last week she told reporters that she “had no idea” that the Texas primary system was “so bizarre” (it’s a primary-caucus hybrid), adding that she had “people trying to understand it as we speak.” Perhaps her people can borrow the road map from Obama’s people. In Vermont, another March 4 contest, The Burlington Free Press reported that there were four Obama offices and no Clinton offices as of five days ago. For what will no doubt be the next firewall after March 4, Pennsylvania on April 22, the Clinton campaign is sufficiently disorganized that it couldn’t file a complete slate of delegates by even an extended ballot deadline.
This is the candidate who keeps telling us she’s so competent that she’ll be ready to govern from Day 1. Mrs. Clinton may be right that Mr. Obama has a thin résumé, but her disheveled campaign keeps reminding us that the biggest item on her thicker résumé is the health care task force that was as botched as her presidential bid.
Given that Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Obama offer marginally different policy prescriptions — laid out in voluminous detail by both, by the way, on their Web sites — it’s not clear what her added-value message is. The “experience” mantra has been compromised not only by her failure on the signal issue of Iraq but also by the deadening lingua franca of her particular experience, Washingtonese. No matter what the problem, she keeps rolling out another commission to solve it: a commission for
infrastructure, a Financial Product Safety Commission, a Corporate Subsidy Commission, a Katrina/Rita Commission and, to deal with drought, a water summit.
As for countering what she sees as the empty Obama brand of hope, she offers only a chilly void: Abandon hope all ye who enter here. This must be the first presidential candidate in history to devote so much energy to preaching against optimism, against inspiring language and — talk about bizarre — against democracy itself. No sooner does Mrs. Clinton lose a state than her campaign belittles its voters as unrepresentative of the country....

BTW Akubi keeps farting and I'm not sure what upset his stomach.

While I hate the Academy Awards these days, the part-Irish sap in me fell for the Once moment.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

The Undead Lobbyist

The Undead Lobbyist

Is this an undead Kevin Bacon...?

fear the siren

fear the siren by ~evilsidehyde

I hope the octopus won't eat the koi babies!

Edie Silk Screen

Edie Silk Screen by ~Candeola

I want to take pictures of you

Akif Hakan Celebi

Yet another groovy Sexoteric find.

Creation & Destruction

Garth Knight via otomano

In other news I'm not too happy about the taxes I owe a highly dysfunctional government, but perhaps politics ignore mode (suggested by Ogg) isn't such a bad idea for awhile - or at least until I pay my taxes.

Friday, February 22, 2008

A is for Araki

I love Suzanne G. but the problem I have with artist sites is that I can't quite copy and paste and such.
There was nothing that mortified me more than art critiques (or any critiques whatsoever) so I really respect those who have the self confidence to continue and not bail out on an easy solution.

Cthulhu In Love

Cthulhu In Love 2 by *KaosBeautyKlinik

Cthulhu in Love by *KaosBeautyKlinik

i n c u b a t i o n

i n c u b a t i o n by ~psyhro

Scary Corn

Scary Corn by ~bushijutsu

Hat tip to Wagga for this find:

Jon Markman at MSN Money doesn't hold back when he says "Corn-based ethanol production is sure to go down as one of the greatest mistakes ever in U.S. energy policy." It's even more provoking when he writes "replacing fossil fuels with corn-based ethanol would double greenhouse gas emissions over the next three decades. The studies show that switchgrass, an alternative to ethanol that's more weed than plant, would boost emissions by 50%."The problem isn't with the cars, the problem is with what it takes to grow the biofuel in the first place. Clearing the land, harvesting, and refining the crops, plus the loss of forest and wild lands and habitats, amounts to creating a carbon footprint worse than fossil fuels. According to the Science article which, admittedly, posits an extreme scenario, it would take 423 years to even out the carbon debt if Indonesia's peat lands were converted to palm oil fields.
More from Science magazine declares ethanol worse for the Earth than fossil fuels

Algae-based ethanol seems to be a far more sensible solution.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

It's now OK to shoot gray wolves in the Northern Rockies

Waterwolves by ~skipaway

Apparently a grand total of only 1,500 grey wolves in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming means it is now OK to hunt them.
Grey wolves in the Northern Rockies of the United States have been removed from the endangered species list, the US Department of the Interior has said.
The move follows efforts over the last 13 years to protect the animals and allow their population to grow.
There are now an estimated 1,500 grey wolves in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming.
They became a protected species in the US after they were nearly hunted to extinction. The removal of protection means they can be hunted again.
Environmental groups have said they will sue the federal government to keep the animal listed.


Bush Administration Announces Plan to Strip Wolves of Endangered Species Protection

Deputy Secretary of the Interior Lynn Scarlett called the wolf recovery program a "remarkable conservation success story," but wolf advocates disagree. They are upset that wolves will once again be hunted, and they say the population levels allowed by the government are not large enough to maintain a viable population.

Idaho officials want to use aerial gunning as seen in this video to kill wolves in their state.

Save America's wolves from the Bush/Cheney Administration.

Tell Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne that this rule change is unacceptable.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

I’ve heard they’re a big pain to maintain

Completely unrelated (other than being annoying/disturbing) gold nuggets from Ogg and Wagga...
At David’s company, management wasn’t a big fan of the whole check-in/re-compile/re-deploy process. They felt that it had too many steps and took far too long to complete. Their organization needed to adapt to software changes - especially bug fixes - much faster. So, to address this problem, they thoroughly analyzed the development process and carefully tweaked it for efficiency. I’m just kidding. Actually, their solution was to pioneer a new methodology called “SQL Sentences”.
All told, these changes required developers to modifiy their code to look like this...

string sql;
// @SQLSentence=0x02f0
if ((bool)(Configuration.GetValue("UseHardcodedSQL")))
sql = "SELECT cust_name, cust_phone, cust_addr " +
" FROM customers WHERE cust_type='Active'";
sql = DataConnector.GetSQLSentence(0x02f0);
... and, of course, add that same query to the sql_sentences table. And, should there ever be a change to the query, maintain it in both the code and the gigantic script created the sql_sentences table and the production database.
Though David wasn't around when these changes were implemented, when he came onboard and heard the story he asked the Lead Developer if he'd ever heard of a Stored Procedure before.
“Yeah,” he replied, “but I’ve heard they’re a big pain to maintain.”

Money makes me feel dirty II by ~penguine145

U.S. banks said "quietly" borrowing $50 billion from Fed

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Banks in the United States have been quietly borrowing "massive amounts" from the U.S. Federal Reserve in recent weeks, using a new measure the Fed introduced two months ago to help ease the credit crunch, according to a report on the web site of The Financial Times.

The newspaper said the use of the Fed’s Term Auction Facility (TAF), which allows banks to borrow at relatively attractive rates against a wide range of their assets, saw borrowing of nearly $50 billion (25.6 billion pounds) of one-month funds from the Fed by mid-February.
The Financial Times said the move has sparked unease among some analysts about the stress developing in opaque corners of the U.S. banking system and the banks’ growing reliance on indirect forms of government support.

Also, Centipede has suggested a 6 Degrees of ExxonMobil game. Thoughts?

Oh, one other thing - Wagga has suggested this blog's name to be changed to b aab³ or B aab³ or something along those lines. Thoughts?

Monday, February 18, 2008

Food for Thought

Federal lawmakers and watchdog groups had harsh words Monday for the U.S. Department of Agriculture after the agency ordered a recall of 143 million pounds of beef from a Southern California slaughterhouse.
Beef products dating to Feb. 1, 2006 that came from the Chino-based Westland/Hallmark Meat Co. are subject to the recall, which is the largest such action in U.S. history. The notice came after the Humane Society of the United States filmed undercover video showing
crippled and sick animals being shoved with forklifts — treatment that has also triggered an animal-abuse investigation...

What an inhumane waste of resources and lives!

I am reminded of the following link Wagga posted under Yushin Maru Whale Butchery Captured on Film:
There is no doubt there is a similar denial here too. If many lamb eaters were obliged to consider and confront the awful reality of their culinary choices, they would spurn the dish. Yet here denial rears its ugly head again and roast lamb and vegies remains among the most popular meals in this country. Leave your conscience under the napkin.
Rack of lamb: delicious but very cruel

cow. by *rooze

UPDATE Edgar/AKA Buzz Saw's friend Weaseldog posted some more detailed and disturbing videos here: Downer Cows, It's What's For Dinner
Apparently the U.S. taxpayer is subsidizing ($40 million) this cruelty.
Also, the employees have now been charged with animal cruelty.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Octopus Love

Big purple octopus attacks Greek restaurant!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Vacation Snapshots - Octopus Coming Soon!

In the random patchwork of places I've been around the world, I somehow missed Portland, but I've been reading more and more about how good the restaurants are so here I am in a pretty impressive hotel. Ever since I was a kid, I've always liked slightly strange old hotels with maze-like rooms (hence the appeal of The Shining). The Monaco Portland has the added Alice-in-Wonderland-having-a-tea-party charm that is particularly appealing. No, this is not a paid advertisement for the place, but I've been quite aesthetically pleased with the overall situation since I arrived.
While I'm here, perhaps I might even run into Stephanie J with her big boots and jeep...
Anyway, I like the way everything appears to be under construction or retrofitting around here - and the people seem to be significantly friendlier than those in the Bay Area.
Yeah, the images are rather blurry, but there are some pretty groovy philosophers on the entertainment cabinet.
Groovy painting.
Groovy fireplace.
Groovy dog. They are quite pet friendly here and I met some very nice dogs during the free wine reception by the fire.
Peggy Harkins' Turkish Delight per below...

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Algae Networks of the Future

Algae Tower housing clusters at downtown

Algae Aquaculture and Tower zone at downtown SF Bay waterfront

Hydro-Net, by San Francisco architects IwamotoScott, who spoke last year at BLDGBLOG's San Francisco event, has been making the rounds lately, popping up on all sorts of architecture and design blogs – but rightly so: it won first prize in the History Channel's recent "City of the Future" competition, and it offers up some fascinating urban re-design ideas...

...Leading me to ask: Does architecturally reimagining the surface of the earth mean that one is inherently Heideggerian? The landscape is extended, no longer serving as mere ground, or foundation, but structure.

Excerpted from BLDGBLOG's Network Hydrology

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Coors Light keeps me young

weird kid by ~auliya566

Not many people live to be a centenarian, but Alberta Krieg has held that honor, with a little help from Coors Light.
Krieg was 108 when she passed away Thursday morning at Heritage House, Wilkes-Barre.
Krieg had frequently credited drinking Coors Light as the key to her longevity.“Coors Light keeps me young,” she said in a previous interview with The Citizens’ Voice.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Inhaled. Burned. Thrown away.

This is one of 20 bizarre Japanese smoking manners ads featured at InventorSpot.

12) "Inhaled. Burned. Thrown away. If it were anything but a cigarette, it would surely be crying."
Could this be the world's first Emo cigarette ad? I really feel for that poor, discarded cigarette butt; left behind, all bent & broken, nothing left but to decay into dust like windblown autumn leaves... hey, now I'm doing it! And tell me a chick, er, a woman didn't write this ad. Boy meets cig, boy uses cig for his own vile and selfish purposes, boy dumps cig like... well, like a used-up cig. Call it catharsis, lightly scented with menthol.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Yushin Maru Whale Butchery Captured on Film

UPDATED with video!
Hat tip to Wagga for this rather depressing find.

"I am morally prohibited from voting for Hillary in the primaries because of her war vote”
Yeah, MM is slightly crazy, but how the hell did Billary get the Catholic Democratic votes in key states? Latino angle, I would assume.

Nonetheless, Obama is the one and the only solution to McCain's mental mush of a concept (yes I respect the time and hell he served in Vietnam unlike the Bush and Clinton admin, but McCain is not a f-ing leader). I want a fucking leader and that leader is Obama!