Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Obama's 30 min Infomercial

I'm going to be watching this very closely tonight mainly because I'm not convinced that I want to vote for him. I am... (hushed silence)... an undecided voter. Yes, that's right the same undecided voter who the Daily Show referred to as "The Stupids," or as David Sedaris referred to as not being able to automatically pick between chicken or poopy-glass for dinner (immediately alienating vegetarians.) Still I am undecided.

But not between Obama and McCain. No, the political romance I once had with McCain when I was young and naive was lost when he hired Rove's underlings to run his campaign. And I knew it was gone for good when he picked Sarah "I-don't-actually-know-what-socialism-is" Palin for his running mate. The choice for me now is between Obama and someone else, and in that I am undecided. 

You see, I am a fan of the write in vote. I believe that our votes should not be for a candidate because we hate the other person, but because we truly want the person we vote for to have the job. For that reason, I will often pick people I know and admire and write their names in, such as myself for sheriff. (Although it's true I do that mostly out of an Andy Griffith fantasy.) What I am not convinced of yet, is that Obama is worthy of my vote. I've posted in the past about some of the problems I have with him and Biden, and I am not convinced that those issues have changed. What I really want from him is a declaration that he will role back many of the unprecedented executive powers that Bush took, but I suppose that would be too good to be true. 

So tonight is his night to sway me, convince me that he is not just the lesser of two evils, but rather someone I would actually want to lead the country of which I am a citizen. 

Otherwise, I may be writing in your name. 

The Rational Moderate

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Ted Stevens found Guilty

Couldn't have happened to a nicer guy. Seriously, how did Alaska turn into this election's Florida? The best part of the article is the quote from Palin on how big oil has this corrupting influence on the government and that is why she was elected to root it out. Nevermind that under her the oil companies got even more in bed with Alaska when she negotiated an increase in their payouts to the local citizens. 

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Thoughts on the Constitution (Part 1)

I’m starting this series of my examination of the Constitution of the United States for a couple of reasons. 1) This has been on my mind since I started this blog. The Constitution was written as a way to legitimize a country and a government in a way that hadn’t been done before. We talk of the President of being the leader of the USA, but he/she isn’t. The Constitution is the authority of this country. 2) The first thing I said when I heard that Obama was running for president was, “Well, I can finally feel confident that at least one person running has actually read the constitution.” I still feel that way. Palin’s continual responses to describing the job of the Vice President shows me that she doesn’t have a clue what’s in the constitution. And that is frustrating considering that section directly matters to her possible future. It might be excused if I don’t know specifically what the constitution says about the VP, but she is running for VP... 3) There is an ideology behind the Constitution that deserves to be explored. There is sometimes a divide between idealists and pragmatists, but the Constitution is really the best of both. An ideal of a government that is run by the rule of law and not the whims of power hungry maniacs that is tempered by pragmatic compromises and steps to make that ideal a reality. So, I’ll start at the beginning, giving the passage and then my thoughts and I would encourage anyone who has any comments to please add it to the comments section below. Think of it as like Oprah’s book club, only, you know, important. (At the very least let me know if you think I'm wasting my time.)

We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

Right from the start we see the ultimate authority for this document: the people. Not, as past monarchies and such had, divine right or genetic lineage, but rather the people who will be ruled by this document allow themselves to be ruled by it. I recognize in this the ideals of the social contract theory most well known by Thomas Hobbes. The idea of a social contract theory works like this: Imagine a state of no government and no authority (so no family members in charge either). In this state of nature, as Hobbes refers to it, we would all ultimately be in a constant state of war against each other because we would all have wants and desires that would be limited by either resources or other’s wanting the exact same things. In this state we simply cannot trust one another to make deals or keep pacts. It is every person for themselves. What happens in this state of nature however is while we are free to pursue whatever end we need or want, we are simply never going to be able to get anywhere near all of the things we could possibly need or want. This is because no matter how strong or intelligent one person may be over others, they are never so far ahead that any other person can’t find a big enough rock to bash their brains out. Lucky for us we are capable of reason and recognizing that it is in our best interest to try and make peace with others to be able to have any chance of achieving our own ends. To achieve this peace requires us to give up some of our freedoms (at least as much as we expect everyone else to give up) to an authority whose sole purpose is to help ensure peace. The people, because it is rational and the only way to ensure we can achieve any of our ends, give their authority over themselves to a governing body.

Many politicians remark that their real boss is the American people, but that is only true to a certain degree. In one way it is true because we can vote, even a step removed, on offices of government and in another way it is true because we are the one who ultimately give up our authority to the Constitution. But once we give up that authority, as we did when the Constitution was ratified, we are no longer the main entity in charge. The Constitution itself becomes the sole authority of the government. 

And the reasons why we would ratify the Constitution are given in a very social contract ideal way: to establish justice, to insure domestic peace, for common defense, for the promotion of general well being, and to keep ourselves as free as we can understanding that perfect freedom leads to us pragmatically having little to no freedom. 

The Rational Moderate

Monday, October 20, 2008

And this is why McCain got his party's nomination...

... because there really are great people who are conservatives and/or Republicans who aren't like the idiots that made these bumper stickers or scream the obnoxious things from the earlier videos I posted. Let's face it, the people who are behaving the most obnoxiously are not the people who voted for McCain in the primaries but rather those who voted for Huckabee or Romney. McCain, just like Obama over Hillary, got his parties nod because the majority of members were sick and tired of the same old crap that we've had from the Bushes and Clintons and were ready for a more moderate fresh start. 

And while both candidates are championing there ticket as the one of true change, McCain's actions, from his hiring the same bozos who trashed his campaign in 2000 to get W. in the white house, to his picking Palin who is simply not qualified and not intelligent enough to pick it up, to his campaign stunts such as suspending his campaign to help fix the economy, to his abandoning the economy as an issue to focus on Bill Ayers a domestic terrorist who has tenuous ties to Obama at best and that even McCain claims to not care about yet constantly bring up, to his using the same company and tacit of robo/auto calling that again smeared him so disgustingly in 2000, these actions do not point to the McCain that the Republican primary voters wanted nor voted for. McCain has let those people down and he should be ashamed of himself. 

As I wrote in an earlier comment, some argue that he is ashamed and that is why he has come across so angry in that he really is an honorable person. All that says to me is if that is true, he is a terrible leader since he is the one who supposed to be in charge of his campaign. If he can't do that right, what hope do we have that he'll lead the nation right?

The people in this video deserve better from him. They're standing behind him, but I don't buy that he's standing behind them.

The Rational Moderate

Sunday, October 19, 2008


The Rational Moderate

Thursday, October 16, 2008

3rd Debate Wrap-up

CBS - Obama 53% to McCain’s 22% with undecided voters

CNN - Obama 58% to McCain’s 31%

MSNBC - Obama

Fox News - Obama

Media Curves - Obama 60% to McCain’s 30%

BBC - Their review of “expert” verdicts was 4 for Obama and 3 for McCain with no tie. Their analysts Kevin Connolly gave the win to the American Voters which is not only lame but proof that he hasn’t been paying attention.

I can’t believe I didn’t include ABC news before now - Oh, that’s because their web site stinks and I can’t find it despite a huge link to “Polls” and “Click Here For More Polls” - stupid disney network

My Take - First, Schieffer should moderate every debate. I’m a fan now. I’m getting the podcasts for Face the Nation right now. 

Second, I thought McCain started well and then went into lala land with some ridiculous statements including talking about the “health” of women as code for “give me an abortion so I can go back to whoring around,” his incessant muttering that he knows how to do everything to fix every problem we face without ever telling anyone else despite his being in a position of authority already by being a senator, his stating that he’ll freeze every spending program except for three and then describing how he’ll spend money on these same problems, and, one more for abortion that made me feel like I had my own Life on Mars experience, how he wouldn’t use Roe v. Wade as a litmus test for the Supreme Court but thought that anyone who agrees with Roe v. Wade would not be qualified. (In fairness this isn’t a direct contradiction but rather he thinks there is a correlation between agreeing with Roe v. Wade and being wrong on a  host of other issues that would not make one qualified. I still found it jarring.) 

Third, Obama was fine. Not spectacular, not making any mistakes that contradicted or confused his position. He seemed exactly the same as the last two debates so I guess I didn’t think he did too well, but the polls again disagree with me. It’s likely because of the reasons I gave about McCain. He does seem erratic. I know Schieffer was hammering them both of the negative comments, specifically Obama’s erratic comment, but that’s the way he looked to me. You can make a partisan comment and still be right. Obama, on the other hand, never had that nervous energy that McCain kept showing up in his odd quips, sarcastic lines, and laughing at his own jokes. As I said last time, I think this is done and Obama will be the next president. But there is one last chance for a turnaround for McCain - he finally appears on Letterman tonight. After canceling with Dave by saying he was suspending his campaign and flying immediately back to Washington to try and fix the problem, Dave got a feed into Katie Couric’s anchor booth to see McCain sitting there waiting to do an interview. Needless to say, Dave spent the better part of the episode and the weeks to follow calling out McCain about it, describing the move as “fishy.” 

The Rational Moderate

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The Argument From Authority Fallacy

I always love a reason to bring up and discuss a logical fallacy. Recently a letter has been signed by every winner of the 2008 Nobel Prize in science that endorses Barack Obama for president. At the face of it this looks like an example of the argument from authority fallacy which basically states that just because someone is in a position of authority does not mean that the views the express are correct.  So while it shouldn't be argued that these are individuals who excel in their chosen fields, it does not follow that their political arguments are sound. 

There are some exceptions to this rule. One is if the individuals are describing something that is in their field of expertise. This letter specifically addresses the scientific issues that have been hurt by the Bush administration and which look to be better understood and appreciated under an Obama administration. In this sense, the fallacy is still true, we shouldn't just accept their conclusions because of their authority, but since it is their field of expertise we can give their opinion more weight than we would if it wasn't their field of expertise. In this case, the weight of their authority and the weight of the evidence of their position leads to accepting their position.

Now it is important to understand that their endorsement is really only about science and technology with a passing nod to the notion that these are the tools we must use to fix the other mounting problems we face. So, if the economy and national defense are more important to you, then you would have to decide if science and tech are more important than other factors such as diplomacy, military strategy, and invisible hands then you might agree with these Nobel Laureates. But their being Nobel Laureates isn't sufficient by itself to make the conclusion true.

The Rational Moderate

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Calling Someone a Terrorist is a Form of Terrorism

Falsely invoking terrorism is a form of terrorism. If the idea behind terrorism is to terrorize (use tactics to make others instantly and incredibly afraid) some group into doing either a) what the terrorist wants and/or b) something other than what the group would normally do, then the outcome of calling someone a terrorist is to get others to be afraid of being around or associating with that individual. Since 9/11, the US has been in the thrall of the word terrorism. It has been used over and over to make us afraid of “others” in the world who would do us harm. For some, such as myself, this can become numbing. I don’t tend to think much about anyone labeled a terrorist anymore since it is used so often and incorrectly. 

Now the definition I am using to describe terrorism may be objected to as being too broad, as it may include such tactics as using fear to get someone to stop smoking, or brush their teeth, or be good or receive a lump of coal at Christmas, or worship one specific God or spend eternity listening to New Kids on the Block. I added the qualifiers instantly and incredibly to offset the difference between simple fear and the full blown terror that terrorism is attempting to invoke. The fear involved in terrorism arises from sudden and unexpected actions that is of a much grander scale than the examples of fear I gave earlier. And this leads to my conclusion that given the climate of our country and the rhetoric of its leaders since 9/11, calling someone a terrorist who has not done the actions of a terrorist is an act of terrorism. It is an attempt to make someone so suddenly afraid of that individual that they will abandon their previous way of living and thinking and adopt one more in line with the invoker or will at least stop what they were doing. 

Lately, McCain/Palin supporters have gone in public and proclaimed Obama a terrorist (see last post.) Now I’m not saying this is representative of all of his supporters, nor am I disagreeing with my earlier post that most of these individuals are mostly saying these things to rile those they see on the other side of the ticket. But to use the term terrorist to describe a Senator who is running for President is to try and scare someone into either a) voting for the other party or b) getting them to not vote for someone else, or not at all.

I’m calling them out as terrorists. 

The Rational Moderate

Friday, October 10, 2008

We're in the News, Bethlehem PA

Well, apparently McCain and Palin held a rally at Lehigh Uninversity the other day, right in the heart of southside Bethlehem. I'm sorry I didn't hear about this until it was too late, because I certainly would have gone down there to talk with some of the supporters. But that isn't what is making the news. Rather it, at first, was the head of the the Lehigh County Republican Chairman Bill Platt's asking the crowd, "Think about how you'll feel on Nov. 5 if you see the news that Barack Obama, Barack Hussein Obama, is president of the United States." Now, I don't actually have a problem with calling someone by their full name, but some are referring to this as a wink and a nod to Obama being a terrorist, or secret Muslim, or related to Saddam because middle names carry over. 

But while McCain was here taking about his opponent he was interrupted by my neighbors shouting "socialist," "terrorist," and "liar." On top of that, there are some very interesting individuals on video making the same claims, only this time in Ohio: 
But again, here are my neighbor's reactions:

Now, I really love living in Bethlehem and that's even knowing that an idiot like Michael Behe (intelligent design proponent who cannot come up with a new argument for his position and does not respond to the thousands of articles, experiments, and arguments that counter his views) is working over at Lehigh, but I'm really worried. I'm worried for two reasons. 1) These people are really like this and believe the things they are saying, or 2) They are so easily caught up in the crowd that they are saying things they don't really believe to get a rile out of those who disagree with them. I actually think it is the latter, but what worries me about that position is that it is counter to exactly what this country needs and to what I am sure a majority of people from all political positions want which is to actually have conversations about the things that matter. I don't think you should be uttering things you don't believe to get on the other's nerves. So cut it out Bethlehem, and Ohio, and every other place where this kind of nonsense is happening.

The Rational Moderate

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Debate, Round 2

CBS - Uncommitted voters went with Obama 40% to 26%

CNN - Obama

MSNBC - Obama (but this one seems particularly skewed)

Fox News - Obama

Media Curves - Independents for Obama 52% to 34%

BBC - didn’t really have anything on their own but linked to Newsweek’s Richard Wolffe who called it a tie which gives it to Obama.

My Take -

I thought it was ugly. I thought Obama avoided answering some questions and he needs to stop doing that. It is a strength for him. While some politicians do better by moving the question into a direction better suited to what they want to talk about, it is worse when he does that because he can specifically answer the question and should.

I thought McCain attacked Obama too much with things that were easily responded to, such as his arguments about Obama “invading” Pakistan or his record on tax increases. 

I thought McCain started off looking angry and ended up looking really flustered and nervous. The weird jokes he made, the dropping of the microphone into his hand when he finished a question... these are the actions of someone who is really nervous. 

I think McCain’s really worried, and I think it’s going to get really, really ugly. 

The Rational Moderate

Friday, October 3, 2008

VP Debate Wrap Up

Polling wrap up on last night’s VP debate. (Again, I’m not linking to these so if you doubt me check out a lovely thing called “google”)

CBS - Biden, as more uncommitted voters went his way. Though Palin’s numbers did increase as far as knowledge and preparedness (though I can’t imagine they could have gone down considering...)

CNN - Biden, though again Palin did better than expected. 

MSNBC - Biden

Fox News - Biden - I could actually find the poll this time. Commentator Aaron Bruns gives it to Biden, but thinks it won’t have an effect on voters whereas Palin has reassured her base that she can handle the job.

Media Curves - Isn’t up, though commenters who saw their results said once again independents favored Biden.

BBC -  commentator Kevin Connolly gives it to Palin, but again prefacing that with the fact that she was expected to fall on her face and didn’t rather than on her making any decent points. If not for that he would have called it even.

My Take: Yeah, I admit that I was watching this for the same reason that millions of NASCAR fans watch cars driving around in circles - I wanted to see a fire ball explosion. And yeah that didn’t happen. But paying any attention to Palin’s answers to the questions compared to Biden, it is clear that she doesn’t know what she is talking about but just managed to hide it better than she has in her interviews. What I thought was interesting was that Biden never once attacked her on anything. He defended against attacks on him by her, but never attacked her directly on anything about her experience or her being a maverick. (I’m so sick of that word I could scream) This was clearly calculated and I think it worked as instead of getting bogged down into what is a monumentally bad decision by McCain, he basically ignored her while coming off as gracious. One of the biggest fears for Obama’s side was that Biden would come across as a big overbearing bully against Palin, but by ignoring her and her *ahem* experience, he avoided that trap.

The Rational Moderate

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Cracked Skepticism

Cracked has gone from a terrible revamped magazine to a pretty decent website. 
In honor of the first word in the title of this blog, I really enjoyed this article on several mysterious non-mysteries. 

When I was a child I was terrified by the Bermuda Triangle. The idea that there was a particular part of the ocean where boats and planes would just disappear made me wonder why someone wasn't stopping people from passing through that region. 

Then I got a little older and read a little more and found out that the triangle was really more of a trapezoid of sorts and I thought, "Holy Crap! This is larger than I thought! Why isn't the Coast Guard doing something?"

Then I got a little older and read a little more and found out that the area of the ocean where the triangle is has about as many if not fewer disappearances as any other well traveled part of the ocean and I thought, "Holy Crap! The ocean is a death trap! Why would any one travel anywhere overseas?"

And then I got a little older and read a little more...

The Rational Moderate