Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Excerpts from the Manning-Lamo chat logs

Marking some excerpts from the Wired Manning-Lamo chat logs (emphases mine):
1. About dedicated file servers assigned to Pfc Manning by Wikileaks/Assange:

(02:49:25 PM) Manning: it was uploaded
(02:50:04 PM) Lamo: uploaded where? how would i transmit something if i had similarly damning data
(02:51:49 PM) Manning: uhm… preferably openssl the file with aes-256… then use sftp at prearranged drop ip addresses
(02:52:08 PM) Manning: keeping the key separate… and uploading via a different means
(02:52:31 PM) Lamo: so i myself would be SOL w/o a way to prearrange
(02:54:33 PM) Manning: not necessarily… the HTTPS submission should suffice legally… though i’d use tor on top of it…
(02:54:43 PM) Manning: but you’re data is going to be watched
(02:54:44 PM) Manning: *your
(02:54:49 PM) Manning: by someone, more than likely
(02:54:53 PM) Lamo: submission where?
(02:55:07 PM) Manning: submission system
(02:55:23 PM) Lamo: in the massive queue?
(02:55:54 PM) Manning: lol, yeah, it IS pretty massive…
(02:55:56 PM) Manning: buried
(02:56:04 PM) Manning: i see what you mean
(02:56:35 PM) Manning: long term sources do get preference… i can see where the “unfairness” factor comes in
(02:56:53 PM) Lamo: how does that preference work?
(02:57:47 PM) Manning: veracity… the material is easy to verify…
(02:58:27 PM) Manning: because they know a little bit more about the source than a purely anonymous one
(02:59:04 PM) Manning: and confirmation publicly from earlier material, would make them more likely to publish… i guess…
(02:59:16 PM) Manning: im not saying they do… but i can see how that might develop
(03:00:18 PM) Manning: if two of the largest public relations “coups” have come from a single source… for instance
(03:02:03 PM) Manning: you yeah… purely *submitting* material is more likely to get overlooked without contacting them by other means and saying hey, check your submissions for x…

2. Assange using encrypted chat/perhaps proactively contacting Pfc Manning:

(8:01:30 AM) Lamo: Does Assange use AIM or other messaging services? I’d like to chat with him one of these days about opsec. My only credentials beyond intrusion are that the FBI never got my data or found me, before my negotiated surrender, but that’s something.
(8:01:53 AM) Lamo: And my data was never recovered.
(8:02:07 AM) Manning: no he does not use AIM
(8:02:37 AM) Lamo: How would I get ahold of him?
(8:02:59 AM) Manning: he would come to you
(8:03:26 AM) Lamo: I’ve never failed to get ahold of someone.
(8:03:29 AM) Manning: he does use OTR though… but discusses nothing OPSEC
(8:03:42 AM) Lamo: I cornered Ashcroft IRL, in the end.
(8:04:19 AM) Manning: he *might* use the jabber server… but you didn’t hear that from me

So anyway...

Saturday, December 18, 2010

DADT about to pass, DREAM not

Much of what I intended to say in this post has already been written by Greg Sargent. It's a good read, but I shall press on, regardless:
1. Yes, pressure from the left, including Lt Dan Choi's heroic/dramatic efforts, helped bring about this day. But we must not forget the important sequence of events that lead to this *vote*.
2. DADT could only be repealed with the help of moderate Republicans - and Senators Snowe (R-ME) and Brown (R-MA) had placed the condition that the Bush tax cuts would have to be extended in FULL, before any vote on DADT. Much as Senator Kyl (R-AZ) may deny it, he had also imposed the same condition on ratification of START. (Unfortunately, DREAM just does not seem to have been part of this discussion, because even some Democrats were opposed to it.)
3. President Obama seemed more interested in getting START dealt with, and so made a (some say shitty) taxcut deal with Senate Minority leader Mitch McConnell. I have written about the advantages of, and need for, this deal earlier.
4. Even though the omnibus budget was crafted with bipartisan effort, Majority Leader Harry Reid found Republican support slipping away, apparently over the inclusion of $8 billion in earmarks out of a $1.1 trillion bill.
5. In a deft maneuver, Senator Reid chucked the omnibus bill, and filed for cloture on DREAM and DADT repeal while the Senate was talking START. I am not sure the White House was happy about this, as Senators Bob Corker and Lindsey Graham accused Reid of "poisoning the well" and hinted that START may not pass.
6. And finally today, Democrat Senators Kay Hagan, Jon Tester, Max Baucus, Mark Pryor, Ben Nelson and Joe Manchin blocked the DREAM of young immigrant kids even as Republicans Lisa Murkowski, Bob Bennett and Dick Lugar voted for it.
Luckily, however, DADT got 63 votes for cloture, clearing the way for final repeal. (Thanks to Republicans Lisa Murkowski, Susan Collins, Olympia Snowe, George Voinovich, Scott Brown, and surprisingly, Mark Kirk (who voted against repeal while in the House.)

So to sum: GOP moderates used their leverage over DADT repeal to ensure a temporary extension of all Bush tax cuts. President Obama took a lot of heat from the Left for making this deal. Senator Reid deftly pushed DADT ahead of START.
Without the much-maligned taxcut deal and Senator Reid's adroitness, we would not be repealing DADT today. I hope "progressives" who are more concerned with taxes than with equality for the LGBT community, and excoriate President Obama for making that deal, learn from this episode.

p.s. Maybe the tea party is indeed all about fiscal issues. If teabagging Republicans had not pulled away from the omnibus budget over earmarks, we would not be repealing DADT today!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

What I would like to hear Democrats say

Apropos the President Obama/GOP tax cut deal that was passed today by the US Senate, Senator Mark Udall (D-CO) writes:
I voted against extending tax cuts to millionaires and billionaires because I believed it was fiscally irresponsible and would unnecessarily add to our nation's huge debt.
This is the Democratic position that even President Obama ran on, and pretty standard for Democrats.
However, this reasoning rarely mentions the fact that extending the Bush taxcuts for the middle-class - which Senator Udall voted for - would also increase the national debt that he claims to be so concerned about. The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) says that extending the Bush taxcuts for the middle class and a permanent fix to the AMT will cost $3 trillion over 10 years - and extending the taxcuts for those making over $250,000/year will add $700 billion to that over the next decade.
If Senator Udall and other Democrats really want to claim the mantle of fiscal responsibility, here is what I would like to hear them say:

"By extending the middle-class taxcuts and fixing the AMT for two years, we will add $463 billion to the deficit. But that is necessary, because we are in a recession, and we want to get as much money into the hands of the American people as we can, so that they can spend the money, increase demand, grow the economy, and lead us out of the recession.

We need the payroll taxcuts to provide an additional stimulus to working Americans. But because we need to ensure the future of Social Security, we will pay for this temporary reduction in payroll taxes by, yes, further borrowing. Again, this is temporary for two years, with the objective of increasing consumer demand to grow us out of this recession.

We also need to extend unemployment benefits for Americans who are out of a job through no fault of their own, and are actively looking for work, so that they are not left without food or a roof over their heads (and it will come back into the economy as they spend the money). And this cause is worth borrowing $56 billion for.

The wealthiest Americans do not need the extra Bush taxcuts, as even Warren Buffet admits. In particular, wealthy Americans who are concerned about the debt should be happy to let the rates go back to that under the Clinton era, so that we do not add to the national debt."

I am sure Senator Udall's speech-writers can do a better job, but I would like him to be honest about the real costs.

Finally - my own reasoning for supporting this tax cut deal, over and above the additional, second stimulus - is the chance at passing the DREAM Act, repeal of Don't Ask/Don't Tell, and ratification of new START, as moderate Republicans like Susan Collins, Scott Brown, and Olympia Snowe have imposed the condition of extension of the Bush tax cuts as a precursor to these three important pieces of legislation. Next year, Republicans will control the House, and they will likely pass such a taxcut deal (or worse, from the Democrats' point of view), that the President will be hard-pressed to veto (as any stimulus will help the economy.) But we will have fewer votes in the Senate and far fewer in the House to pass those three important pieces of legislation, effectively dooming at least DADT repeal and DREAM. If giving the richest Americans $150 billion (Bush tax cuts + estate tax) helps us achieve passage of these three critical items, it will be well worth it.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Using probabilities to predict election results

The recent mid-term elections, especially the Senate results for Colorado and Nevada, made me wonder about the efficacy of likely-voter screens that pollsters normally use. Rather than discarding all "not-likely" voters, could one assign probabilities to different sub-groups formed based on likelihood-of-voting?
Thanks to Mark Blumenthal, I now know that the CBS/New York Times poll uses probabilities instead of a "likely voter" screen. Here is Mark Blumenthal's write-up on the method and its results for Presidential elections till 2004. How did the poll do in 2008?
First, all the polls (from the lovely charts at the erstwhile, now part of HuffPo):

Second, the CBS/Times polls:

Much more consistent than some other polls, including Rasmussen and USA Today/Gallup, for sure. You can click on any of the points to see the raw trend instead of the trend line. The final result, of course, was Obama 52.9%, McCain 45.7% (Wiki). While the "all polls" trendlines finally converge to the actual results, the CBS/Times poll suggests the race was relatively consistent throughout the fall - especially the CBS/Times-specific trendline.

Here is a description of Registration-Based Sampling, which uses voter registration history to contact only those voters with a history of voting, rather than a self-reported history provided by randomly-contacted voters (Random Digit Dialing).

(Much thanks to Mark Blumenthal for the links: Follow him on Twitter, and on the new Huffington Post/Pollster website. Any errors in data interpretation are purely my fault.)

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Cautiously optimistic about Colorado Senate & Michael Bennet

Currently (0146 Wednesday Nov 3), per MSNBC, Senator Michael Bennet and challenger Ken Buck are separated by a few thousand votes. Nate Silver and Dave Weigel appear to think Denver, Boulder and Arapahoe counties have not reported a large fraction of their results, so Senator Bennet's a shoo-in. While I am obviously a Bennet partisan (having volunteered long hours, including 12+ hours today), I believe the race is much, much tighter, though I would bet that Senator Bennet wins.
Here are the gory details:
1. Boulder County estimated total turnout at 119k, out of 164k "active" voters; as of writing, 86459 votes have been counted, including 228 polling-day-votes. Senator Bennet leads 66.5-29.2. If the County estimate is correct, that means an additional 12k vote gain for Senator Bennet.
2. Denver County has 273,922 "active" voters. In the last General/Governor mid-term, 2006 (PDF), "active turnout" was 58.56%. If that remains constant (got a text from Hickenlooper that turnout was low!), that means a total vote of 160,408; so far, 149k votes have been counted, and Bennet leads 71-24.7. So there's an additional 5k vote gain for Bennet.
At the other extreme, in 2008 the active turnout was 89% - that means another 95k votes are still out there, and Bennet easily wins. I somehow doubt this high turnout was the case (see Hick's text from earlier.)
UPDATE (Wed 0800): As of 0415 Mountain, Denver County's FINAL unofficial tally is 174k votes in Denver, with Bennet winning 71.2-24.4. So that's a lead of 81,450 votes in Denver County, compared to 69,060 when I wrote this post last night. So an additional 12k vote gain rather than an additional 5k gain, thanks to 5% higher turnout than in 2006 - 63.6% in the Senate race.

3. Arapahoe County appears to have ALL its vote counted, with a turnout of 164k out of 273k "active" voters, despite what the NYT says ("11% reporting").
UPDATE (Wed 2000): Denver Post says that as of this morning, 30k votes were still out; as of 5 PM, the County reports 180k votes tallied, with Bennet up 49-45.7. So even if another 15k votes are out there, Bennet will still win!
4. Weld and El Paso counties appear to be almost all done, as do most of the rural Colorado counties - ASSUMING the afore-mentioned NYT report is correct. Still, with the current totals including 170k votes from El Paso county (Colorado Springs!), I doubt there are many more votes there.
UPDATE: Weld County, Ken Buck's home, do appear to have all their ballots counted. El Paso, OTOH, has a sucky website.
UPDATE (0830 Wed): Per the NYT, El Paso county is 100% in, and Ken Buck gained (I think) another 3k votes. SENATOR MICHAEL BENNET IS AHEAD BY ALMOST 7500 VOTES, BOULDER STILL COUNTING!

Add up 1 & 2, we get (at a minimum) about a 17k additional vote gain for Senator Bennet from Denver and Boulder - a potential victory margin of 10k votes for the incumbent Democrat. (UPDATED/CORRECTED: This is BIGGER THAN the 0.5% margin of the highest vote-getter, or 3,900 votes - NOT the vote-TOTAL - that triggers a recount.)

As I said, cautiously optimistic.

FINAL UPDATE (Sat AM): With 97% precincts reporting, Michael Bennet has won by 15k votes - thanks to an increased turnout in Denver county.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Why I support Michael Bennet

The Colorado Senate race between Michael Bennet and Ken Buck is one of the closest races in the November 2010 mid-term election, and could determine if the GOP takes control of the Senate. More importantly, it will determine who will be Colorado's junior Senator for the next six years.

The case against Republican Ken Buck is very clear. Ken Buck is socially very conservative, opposing abortions even in cases of rape and incest; he apparently lacks any understanding whatsoever of date rape; he thinks homosexuality is mostly a choice, against modern scientific knowledge; and he supports continuing Don't Ask, Don't Tell (DADT). His main goal as a Senator appears to be to act as a road-block against President Obama's agenda (think climate change and comprehensive immigration reform), and he also promises to repeal the healthcare reforms passed recently, in their entirety. Overall, someone who will prevent any progress in the future, and will roll back as many of the legislative successes achieved by President Obama and the Democrats in the past two years as possible.

But more important than voting against someone is getting to vote for someone. And I am proud to state that I am unequivocally for Senator Michael Bennet. My reasons are as follows:

1. Senator Bennet believes in using the power of government for good (stimulating the economy, regulating insurance companies and Wall Street, the Lilly Ledbetter Act, the Matthew Shepard Act) and not in (ab)using it to control our personal lives, for example DADT (fun videos here!) or denying women abortion rights.
- In fact, seems to me that Senator Bennet is a civil libertarian on this (and other) issues: "I will work hard to defend the rights of my girls to govern their own reproductive health from government intrusion." (link)

2. Senator Bennet seeks to find solutions to problems and works with Democrats and Republicans alike; for example, the Pay It Back Act to pay down the Federal deficit with repaid TARP funds (supported by Republican Senators Bob Corker and Johnny Isakson, and Democrats Mark Udall and Jon Tester, among others.)

3. Some liberals/progressives may disagree, but Senator Bennet supported sending out $250 checks to seniors who did not receive a COLA increase in their SS pay, only if it was paid for from left over stimulus funds.
(Why I think this is a reasonable approach: There was little to no inflation, so there should be no COLA. So to me, the only rationale for the $250 check is as a form of stimulus, ergo, it can be paid out of ARRA.)

4. Democrats and other folks frustrated with a seeming lack of progress since January 2009 should remember that Republicans time and again mounted what was effectively a filibuster. Democrats might have had almost-60 Senators; that's close, but no cigar. Senators Kennedy and Byrd were often sick; Senator Franken was not officially elected till mid-2009. So Democrats had to seek compromises with "moderate" Republicans. We saw how the negotiations with GOP Senators Snowe, Collins and Specter reduced the size of the stimulus bill (ARRA); fruitless talks with Senators Grassley, Enzi and Snowe stalled healthcare reform; and for all the GOP's bluff-and-bluster about supporting small businesses, Republican Senators blocked a bill easing lending to small businesses for months, till two retiring GOP Senators helped break the filibuster. And yet, Democrats seem unwilling to do away with the filibuster, likely out of fear that if they are reduced to minority status in the future, they will not be able to block Republican bills.
As far as I can tell, the best plan to reform the filibuster has been proposed by Senator Michael Bennet, which preserves the filibuster, but does not allow a permanent block. Read Congress Matters expert David Waldman (KagroX on Dailykos and Twitter) on the filibuster; this is what Waldman says about Senator Bennet's solution:
As part of his Senate rules reform proposal, Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO) proposes making the motion to proceed non-debatable while the Senate is in legislative session. And when I last wrote about it, I didn't know that his proposal for ending secret holds was in fact based on doing that. It's a smart proposal that would do for bills in legislative session what I described as being the case for nominations in executive session. That is, it knocks down one procedural hurdle (the ability to filibuster the motion to proceed to consideration of a bill) and leaves just the one hurdle -- the ability to filibuster the bill itself.
That last is perhaps the wonkiest, but also the most important reason I support Senator Michael Bennet - a level-headed, (reasonably) bipartisan approach to solving problems.

Video update: Here's Senator Bennet testifying before the Senate Rules Committee on filibuster reform:

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

"Public Notice" - a teabagger/GOP front

I saw an ad this morning on MSNBC, by Public Notice, that talks about rising deficits due to allegedly out-of-control government spending, and urges folks to vote on November 2 for a "small, caring government" - sounds like anti-Democrat, maybe even "compassionate conservative"! So I looked up their website; their "About" section says:
Public Notice is an independent non-profit dedicated to providing facts and insight on the economy and how government policy affects Americans’ financial well-being.

Through education and awareness projects, Public Notice engages Americans on today’s policies, to avoid tomorrow’s problems.

Americans, empowered with the facts, can lead Washington to be better stewards of the nation’s economic and fiscal future.
That is a very laudable objective. So I poked around, and saw a video clip filmed apparently during Glenn Beck's 8-28 rally, that asks folks five questions: Which President (1) Spent $3 trillion in a single year; (2) bailed out hundreds of large corporations; (3) spent billions of tax dollars on stimulus spending during a recession; (4) raised spending by many times the rate of inflation on non-defense items; (5) passed an expensive healthcare bill. The answer to all these questions is, apparently: Both Bush and Obama.

This may be a surprise, since Bush labeled himself as a "compassionate conservative", and Public Notice clearly lays some blame on him. But not quite. If one follows US politics closely (and I do!), then the "Bush was NOT a real conservative" is a common trope trotted out by Republicans to explain the record deficits created by President George W Bush's policies.
Second, though the health care reform bill passed by President Obama and the Democrats might seem expensive (how else does one pay to insure 33 million additional Americans?), "Public Notice" fails to note a crucial difference, given their "deficits are critical" theme:
  • President Obama's healthcare bill was fully paid for, as per the (truly) non-partisan CBO, and even reduces the federal deficit - by $130 billion over the first ten years, and by over $1.2 trillion over the second decade!
  • President Bush's Medicare prescription drug program, on the other hand, was NOT paid for at all, and in fact, raises the federal deficit by over $500 billion!
Third: Public Notice fails to understand that in a recession, the government *has* to spend money to make up for the lack of demand - otherwise, unemployment gets worse as manufacturers lay off workers. Don't take my word for it - read up Paul Krugman or other noted economists.

A final point. If Public Notice really was all about educating citizens, they would be more upfront about who is behind this group and its work - but the "About" section lists not a single name.

Sorry, Public Notice - but it is very hard to accept your "independent" claim. You are nothing but a front for teabagger Republicans.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Debating the price of the Chevy Volt

This will be a quickie.
Chevy's new Volt is priced at $41,000, with a $7,000 government rebate. Earlier today, @emptywheel said that since the net price of the Chevy Volt was $34,000, it is not very expensive compared to the average price of US (Ford, GM, Chrysler) vehicles, $30,400. This is based on the New York Times report on the Chevy Volt.
All I wanted to point out was that the NYT did not specify what that "average" represented. Did it compare other mid-size sedans? Or was that a general average of *all* vehicles, ranging from a Chevy Cobalt ($14,990) to a Cadillac Escalade ($86,000+)?
This lead to a long exchange with @emptywheel and @bmaz. But at the end of all that, the basic question remained unanswered: What is the basis for this comparison?

Here is why that question is important. Say we sell 100 Cobalts at $15,000 each and 15 Escalades at $86,000 each. The average price comes out to $24,260.
Now say we introduce a fictitious Chevy Current, an electric vehicle priced at $35,000 (say), which after a government rebate of $7,000, comes to $28,000.

Essentially, @emptywheel argues that the Current is not that expensive, since it costs only $3,740 more than the "average US vehicle."
However, one should be able to figure out that the Current, even after the government rebate, at $28,000, is almost twice as expensive as 87% of the vehicles we sold at $15,000! Would one still be able to say that the Current is not that expensive?

I am willing to concede all of @emptywheel's and @bmaz's points - that this is an "early-adopter" marketing strategy, that the Chevy Volt is the greatest thing since sliced bread, etc. etc.

However, I would still like to know: What is the basis for that comparative "average US vehicle price"?

Easy, right?

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Thoughts on CO-Senate Democratic primary

In the upcoming Colorado Senate primary on the Democratic side, we have Sen. Michael Bennet, formerly Denver Public Schools Superintendent and appointed by (now-outgoing) Gov. Bill Ritter to fill Secretary Ken Salazar's vacant Senate seat, and Andrew Romanoff, erstwhile Speaker of of the Colorado House of Representatives.
Romanoff is seen as the progressive in the race, and won the earlier caucus; but the Democratic candidate will be decided by a primary held on August 10, 2010. Sadly, the race has turned somewhat nasty, with Romanoff claiming not to take any "special-interest" money, and charging Bennet as being in the pockets of Wall Street. Sen. Bennet's campaign has hit back with an ad exposing Romanoff's past acceptance of PAC funds, for which Romanoff has since "apologized".

Firstly, both candidates would be better than the Republican (Ken Buck or Jane Norton). Second, progressives/liberals may think less of Sen. Bennet for the laws he helped the Obama administration pass - no single-payer healthcare or even a public option, no breaking up of the big banks, continuing bank bail-outs. But frankly, if Romanoff had been appointed Senator instead of Bennet, he would have cast the very same votes that Bennet did - that was the party line! What would "progressives" rather have Bennet do - vote against health care and Wall Street reform, thus bringing both of them down, leading to President Obama's Waterloo?

So in that sense, tomato/tomahto. But a choice has to be made. For starters, I have actually met the man, and perhaps that sways me. That aside, Bennet is relatively fresh - though he was Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper's Chief-of-Staff, in a sense he is not a career politician a la Andrew Romanoff. Bennet also has extensive private sector experience, successfully reorganizing/managing large companies in distress. Hopefully, Bennet will put that experience to good use as the Obama administration and Congress lead us out of the current economic mess - though thus far, his actions have tended to underwhelm me.

But overall, I'd rather see Michael Bennet nominated (and win!)

Rule of politics-as-usual: The candidate that is behind is the first to go negative. And so, just like a typical politician, Andrew Romanoff has unleashed some vicious, false campaign ads. These have been the subject of articles by Michael Booth of the Denver Post and Dana Milbank in the Washington Post. (Milbank once worked for Romanoff, and has some interesting background on Romanoff's style.)
With these attack ads, Romanoff has gained ground on Bennet, and they are now even. But these gains have come at a cost. I have found that Bennet supporters tend to support the Democrat-who-wins-the-primary. But now, at least one has stated on Facebook that she will NOT support Romanoff any more even if he wins, and I will add myself to that group.
Meta-thought: Romanoff proudly states that he has been named "top legislator" during his term in the Colorado House, for bringing together Republicans and Democrats, and this is what he will bring to Washington. But look at the man's actions: in pursuit of the Democratic nomination, Romanoff has chosen the "win-at-all-costs" route, effectively setting Democrats against each other, and souring Bennet supporters who were willing to work with him. If he is so eager and willing to tear Democrats apart, does anybody believe he will fare any better with Republicans who are bent on defeating President Obama?
Sorry, Mr Speaker, you have revealed yourself to be nothing but a cynical, run-of-the-mill politician, and would fit right into Washington, DC.

I found out today that Speaker Romanoff is on the Executive Committee of the Colorado Democratic Leadership Council. The DLC is a group of centrist Democrats, even though the "about" section of the CO DLC claims to be "progressives"; prominent members include President Bill Clinton (think welfare reform) and Harold Ford, Jr. There's nothing wrong with a Third Way approach (except it is often reviled by liberals); but Speaker Romanoff is running hard to the left to win the CO-Senate Democratic primary, even going to the extent of supporting single-payer healthcare.
Reformers have put forth two general models to fix this ailing system. Some propose a single-payer, single-administrator system to cut administrative costs. They cite the fact that Medicare spends only 4 percent of its budget on administration, and their ideal model often looks like Medicare for all. Unfortunately, this model would leave fee-for-service payment in place -- insuring continued rapid cost inflation. Nor does it address the fragmentation that creates so much waste. On a practical level, it would require us to put the health-insurance industry out of business, a daunting political task.
The article linked above, dated January 2009, goes on to lay out strategies for successful reform of the healthcare system in America, including encouraging healthy behavior, electronic records, managed competition among health plans, and special health courts to contain medical malpractice costs.
I am pretty sure most, if not all, of these DLC-suggested objectives are met with the health care reform passed by the current Congress, including Senator Bennet. They have the worthy aim of reducing healthcare costs, which is often a major impediment to getting health insurance. The new health care reforms also prohibit (as of August 1, 2010, I believe) exclusion of patients due to pre-existing conditions.
Will these reforms make health care affordable? I would like to think so, and certainly hope so. Is it single-payer, Medicare-for-All? No, and based on the DLC's memo, and reporting such as that by Atul Gawande in the New Yorker, I am not sure that's such a good idea.

Nevertheless, the bottom line is, Speaker Romanoff is (was?) a DLC-er, and if he truly believed in the principles of the DLC (rather than becoming a member only to ingratiate himself with President Clinton and then-Senator Ken Salazar), he would be praising the health care reform passed with the aid of Senator Bennet. Instead, he faults the reform effort and pushes for single-payer - something that endears him to liberals, but will NOT contain costs on its own.
Clearly, yet another cynical ploy by Speaker Romanoff to win the Democratic primary. Shame.

Like I mentioned earlier, on the issues, Senator Bennet and Speaker Romanoff are largely alike. As part of the Senate, Bennet has voted to push through healthcare reform, Wall Street reform, and stimulus funding/unemployment benefits, though none of these are exactly what the liberal left wants. On the other hand, Speaker Romanoff, during his tenure in the CO State House, pushed through anti-illegal immigration measures that he touted as the toughest in the country. With comprehensive immigration reform next on the Democrats' agenda, I am not sure if I want someone like Speaker Romanoff voting on the issue - read Julie Gonzales.
In addition, if my previous updates did not make it clear - I am absolutely disgusted by Speaker Romanoff's misleading, disingenuous attacks on Senator Bennet, not to mention his sudden change of heart from a centrist DLC-er to a liberal, conveniently timed for the primary.

I now firmly support Senator Michael Bennet.

Bonus: Senator Bennet's autobiographical video, following his promise to remain positive in the final days of the campaign:

Bennet for Senate! Go Michael!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

My Twitter Rules!

Yes, it does! But the other meaning - how I use Twitter, and suggest others do too - is the subject of this post, which I'm pretty sure will develop over the course of time.

1. Twitter rocks - as a way to interact with people. I have made new friends from all walks of life (though my feed seems disconcertingly DC-heavy!) We talk politics, pop culture, sports, the weather, beer... It is social media, after all - don't be a-social!

2. Emanating from #1, and suggested by @KHayhoe: Do not use Twitter solely as a press release, and do not send auto-DMs - "Thank you for following me! Look forward to interacting with you!" - if you don't really plan to do so. This often happens with folks who follow (and are followed by) tens of thousands of tweeps (see #6). If I don't see you interacting with your followers, it's highly unlikely I will follow you.

3. Obviously, there are exceptions. These are primarily:
(a) politicians (@BarackObama!);
(b) real celebrities - authors and movie stars with a substantial body of work behind them (@iamsrk) come to mind; and
(c) reporters - see #4.

4. My other major use of Twitter is as a news-feed, from journalists in fields I am interested in: politics (@markknoller, @jaketapper, @chrisgeidner, @anamariecox, @ktumulty), sports (@SI_PeterKing), the environment (@drgrist, @kate_sheppard), and local news (@mistymontano). Their feeds are often filled with insights on, and links to, news outside their own work, and you might notice that these fine folks interact with ordinary people like me :-) That is NOT required, as they are busy chasing down interesting news stories for the rest of us.
But given the choice - and there are choices a-plenty on Twitter - I follow the folks listed above, instead of @DavidGregory.
(Perhaps one "real-world" advantage: I watched ABC's This Week while Jake Tapper hosted it and teased it via Twitter, in addition to interacting with his followers about the show. But I skip David Gregory's Meet the Press.)

5. Follow-back/Unfollow: See #1. If I follow you, that means I find your feed interesting. But (despite my delusions of self-importance, see #4!) I do not expect a follow-back. This works in the reverse way too - please do not expect a follow-back.
But I will usually follow you back, at least for a while, if your Twitter profile has a decent bio/web link (so I know who you are - the human connection) - this is important.
If your feed overwhelms my feed, or does not hold my interest, or has very little to no original content (e.g. if all you do is ReTweet others without even adding commentary), I will unfollow. (Unfollow me if you will.) I also unfollow inactive accounts from time to time, but obviously that does not affect you.

6. If you are a "Social media" or "marketing" expert with tens of thousands of followers/follows, do NOT expect a follow-back (and in any case, you are unlikely to be reading this post). I just do not believe meaningful human interaction (see #1) is possible at such volumes.

7. Porn/sales bots WILL get blocked. Since politics is a big part of my feed, I will unfollow or even block (a) single-issue ranters (since I already know your point of view on your pet issue, following you is not going to inform me further); and (b) folks on all sides, if you have no respect for human rights and civil discourse.

8. Finally: This is me. (Since this post will replace my bio link, figure I should link to my personal website here.) UPDATE: In the interest of full disclosure, my political leanings (thanks to OKCupid!), and reasons why I still don't call myself "liberal" or "progressive", despite what OKCupid says!

Monday, June 28, 2010

Hallelujah binge!

Recently, I went on a Hallelujah binge: listening to/watching various versions of "Hallelujah". I posted links to each of these versions on Twitter, but the Twitter hashtag apparently has a short shelf-life. So, here are the videos (mostly for my own ready reference!)

1. The best, Jeff Buckley:

2. kd lang on Canadian TV:

3. The original, Leonard Cohen:

4. Kate Voegele:

5. A Norwegian quartet: Youtube (embedding disabled :-( )

6. And since I *love* Rufus Wainwright, here are two of his live performances:


Wednesday, April 28, 2010

My political leanings...

Took a "politics" quiz on OKCupid, and here are the results:

You are a

Social Liberal
(85% permissive)

and an...

Economic Liberal
(25% permissive)

You are best described as a:

Strong Democrat

Link: The Politics Test on Ok Cupid
Also: The OkCupid Dating Persona Test

Shocked! I am shocked!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Matt Taibbi helping the Palinization of America...?

So Matt Taibbi gets all "hail the working poor, us elites don't really work!" over David Brooks here. Several liberals in my Twitter feed were jumping for joy at Taibbi's put-down of Brooks. I wasn't too pleased, but I couldn't put my finger on it till this morning.

Taibbi's thesis apparently is that only the proletariat do "real" work. Only if someone puts in 80 hours/week on a demolition crew or other shitty manual labor, can it be called "real" work. The others - writers, intellectuals who generate ideas, pursue "work" that they love - aren't worth shit.

Not to go all John Galt, but this is a romanticization of manual labor that is completely unnecessary and even dangerous. If what I do as a scientist - a lot of writing, and yes, some of the research, things I actually love to do - is not "real" work and all these liberal commentators and yes, intellectuals push it accordingly - the results of my labors aren't going to be appreciated by the layman/proletariat, who only respect the fruits of real hard work. And who do you think produces reports on climate change? So-called "ivory-tower" intellectuals (including climate modelers!)

One of the annoying left-right divides in the US is anthropogenic climate change, which has become highly politicized, and it is quite frustrating that most GOPers (as represented by their Senators and Congressmen) believe humans don't contribute to climate change. Part of the reasoning stems from a lack of respect for climate scientists - "they are only in it for future funding!" And folks like Matt Taibbi - who romanticize "real" work - only help make the case against the intellectual labors of climate scientists stronger (among other creative/intellectual endeavors.)

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Notes from a Speak Easy

I am in North Carolina on a project with the EPA, and that gives me a chance to look around the Raleigh-Durham area. Yesterday, I decided to look up Carmen's Cafe, a Cuban joint - or that was the description, anyway! When I showed up around 10:30 PM, turned out there was a Speak Easy rather than Salsa dancing. Figured I'd hang out and see what it was all about.

The demographics were interesting - I was definitely the only Indian, but unlike Colorado bars (mostly White), this place was filled with African-Americans. Maybe 1 or 2 Caucasians, and the two bartenders were Latino. The Speak Easy (not a speakeasy) was essentially a sort of vox populi, with moderators posing questions, and audience members chiming in. As the tagline put it, "combining entertainment with intellect!"

The first question was about a woman who, six months into a relationship, found out the guy was a convict out on parole, after 10 years for armed robbery. What should she do? Opinions varied, and a spirited debate ensued: a guy saying "women won't go out with a convict", women saying it was about honesty, one woman saying 18-19 year-olds do stupid things that should not weigh them down forever, but finally, a woman ended that discussion with "we don't tell men we were hos!"
A later question was about problems with the school system, focusing on cross-dressing school kids and whether the schools should do anything about it. There was some conservatism - "parents should tell their kids they are going to school to study, not to bring attention to themselves"; caution ("schools can get sued!"); but also a female school teacher who said "these days, it does not cause disruption; 10 years back, gays and lesbians were outcasts, but now they are normal."

Today, I had the familiar l'escalier effect - what I should have said. As the school teacher pointed out, cross-dressing kids might well be viewed as normal by the other kids. In my opinion, the Speak Easy missed the bigger point - the problem with schoolkids is not the cross-dressing kids (if at all), so much as kids who bring guns and knives, forcing the school to install metal detectors. What sort of parents and school system allow this behavior to continue? And tying the two discussions together - isn't not-controlling violent kids (and instead, worrying about the "disruptive" effects of cross-dressing kids) what leads to the stupid things that 18-19 year-olds do that ends up with them in prison?

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Roxy has found a new home! (updated)

I adopted Roxy from the Humane Society of Boulder Valley in August 2009. Roxy is an approximately 1.5-year-old, 55-lb, suspected Labrador Retriever/Siberian Husky mix, though she might have some Bull Terrier in her as well. She was rescued as a stray in Kansas, and brought to HSBV.

However, my personal schedule has changed recently, which was not expected when I adopted her. I will be traveling for 7-8 weeks over the next four months: 2-4 weeks starting March 22, and five weeks starting in the last week of May. This is too long a period of time to board Roxy, both for cost and from the standpoint of her health. Further, Roxy's life with me is sub-optimal - she's either at home in my small condo, or on a leash outside, with only weekly visits to day care to let off steam.
Considering the combination of my upcoming travel and her quality of life, I tried to relinquish Roxy earlier this week to HSBV. But her multiple issues - most of them borderline, see below - deemed her unadoptable at HSBV.

Rather than euthanize her, I reclaimed Roxy, but with the explicit view of finding her a new home soon. Below, I describe her issues and good points, and hope that someone out there can take her up and provide her a good home.

Issues with Roxy: Roxy has gotten over her separation anxiety, though it took her about 6 months. Initially, she expressed her anxiety through scratching and pawing at the door for up to an hour, before tiring/giving up - nothing more destructive. (I have videos!)
In the last month or so, she has started misbehaving while at daycare (ankle-biting). She plays rough, and even if the other dog doesn't want to play, Roxy nips at him/her and starts a fight (thankfully, nothing serious yet). The attendants at Camp Bow-Wow put her down for a nap, which seems to help. I just realized that this misbehavior started after I took her off ClomiPRAMINE, which was supposed to help her get over the separation anxiety.
Roxy has also shown signs of guarding her food bowl and rawhide while at daycare and at the Humane Society, though never at home with me.
Now that Roxy's over her separation anxiety, she tends to run off exploring for up to an hour or more, if I let her off-leash. She returns when she's exhausted, but this means that I now keep her on-leash at all times - there's a school close by, and a loose dog that sorta looks like a pit bull terrier could scare kids (but definitely their parents!)
Roxy chases cats, but more out of curiosity. Still, I would not recommend a home with cats.

But Roxy's a good dog:
Roxy is great with people and kids, unless the person is a stranger with a large bag (she barks.)
She was house-broken when I got her, so someone owned her before she became a stray. She has been through the HSBV beginner's training class, and knows commands like sit, down, stay (working on recall.)
She usually plays well with similar-size/larger dogs and confident little dogs, though not with yappy little dogs or cats.
Now that she has spent a good length of time with me, she is OK left alone at home for 8 hours or so, though at the start of such days I run with her for about 3 miles and feed her with a frozen Kong.
I have only had her chew a couple things over the last 7 months, and that was when I was away for longer periods than usual. It could be that her experience as a stray made her rather self-reliant, and the switch back to domestic life, in addition to her energetic nature, makes her bored, resulting in gnawed furniture! I believe that if she had a largish yard to play in and explore, or another doggy companion or doggy daycare* 1-2 times/week, she'd be quite content, and leave the furniture alone.
I recently left her with friends for two weeks while I was out of town, and she quickly became attached to my male friend. She'd get somewhat anxious if he left the room, even if his wife was there. However, her anxiety manifests at a much lower level than it used to when I got her from HSBV. So any separation anxiety with a new owner might not be too bad.
*I have re-started Roxy on ClomiPRAMINE, but this drug takes 4-6 weeks to become effective. However, once she's on it, Roxy's misbehavior at daycare might likely reduce - while on ClomiPRAMINE, she was a great dog at daycare.
I will be working on her food bowl-guarding issues, with the aid of an HSBV trainer.

If you think you can provide Roxy a good home, please contact me: randomsubu AT gmail. Thanks!

UPDATE: Pictures! The three nice pictures were taken by Theron (notanyron) - thanks!
UPDATE 3/13/10: Roxy has found a new home! Thanks, Tabetha!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Buying local: books v/s music

I went to the Pearl St Mall in downtown Boulder today - something I haven't had a chance to do the past few months, ever since I adopted Roxy. Now that Roxy seems to have gotten over her separation anxiety, I can go out again without too much worry.
Anyway, went to the Boulder Book Store. Each time I go to a physical book store, I feel that I should instead buy an e-book reader, since (a) no dead trees! and (b) local book store prices are usually way more than at Amazon, e-book or not. Still, I have bought a few books over the past couple years, partly out of a sense of supporting the local independent store, and partly if the title really interests me. In that sense, the local book store is great - allows me to browse through new and old titles quickly. I probably would not have looked for, or found, Padgett Powell's The Interrogative Mood, which I bought today. And I very likely would not have got a signed-first-edition through Amazon!
Still, I hesitated to buy Joseph Stiglitz' new book, Freefall. The book looks really interesting, but it's 42% cheaper through Amazon, and almost 65% off in the Kindle edition*. So I came away without the book. I figure the gentry that now occupy most of Boulder (and have raised property values in the city so much that I have to live in Gunbarrel) can shoulder the burden of keeping the local book store open...
Alas, that last option has not quite worked out for Bart's CD cellar. Tonight was their last night, going out of business and everything, including fixtures and furniture, on sale, 60-80% off marked prices. I ended up buying a dozen CD/sets and a pair of funky "beer-sunglasses" (for a friend!) for under $50. Good for me, not so for the local small-business environment. I have benefited on occasion from talking to the sales folks at the brick-and-mortar record stores, as they are usually quite knowledgeable. Still, iTunes and Amazon's (many free!) MP3 collections have diminished the local store's importance.
Or not? Is the local music store just as important as the local book store? Should I help keep the local book store open, even if it creates a significant dent in my wallet?

*I don't even have to own a Kindle to buy the Kindle edition - thanks to Kindle-for-PC, I now own a copy of Freefall.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Reasons why I refuse to call myself a liberal or progressive

Usually, I find myself aligning more with Democratic/left positions, and consider myself extremely socially liberal. However, I do not call myself a progressive or liberal, because these labels apparently come with a set of positions I find annoying and even reprehensible. Here is a list of these positions, in no particular order:

1. “Bring the troops home/War is not the answer”: This is a nice slogan, but not a policy. For better or for worse, the US is involved in wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. While the Obama administration [WH] is drawing down the troop levels in Iraq, this will take some time. As for Afghanistan, I agree with WH that Al-Qaeda/the Taliban need to be destroyed, and this theater includes Pakistan (where WH sends drones.) Pakistan at the very least has a functioning central government (not to mention a strong Army); Karzai's administration is still weak. Withdrawing US troops in a knee-jerk fashion now will only lead to more instability in the region, possibly allowing the Taliban/Al-Qaeda to return to their pre-9/11 ascendancy.

2. Single-payer healthcare/Medicare-for-All/public option: First, eliminating private insurance companies – effectively nationalizing the insurance industry – is just not going to happen. While the existing system has many deficiencies, a majority of Americans are generally happy with their healthcare. Nationalization of an integral part of people's lives is too radical a change that will not go down well especially for a Democratic WH. But second, and more importantly, Medicare-for-All will not contain costs – Atul Gawande's famous New Yorker article compares healthcare costs through the Medicare prism, and finds that existing Medicare can pay twice as much for care that is not much better, if not actually worse. Current healthcare reform legislation tries to correct many of the deficiencies of private sector insurance – caps, recissions, no denial of coverage based on pre-existing conditions – in addition to (AFAIK) delivery system reforms which really bend the cost curve. It would help if the Cornhusker kickback and other sweetheart deals (including that for unions*, see later) were removed from the legislation, but overall, just because the legislation does not achieve single-payer healthcare or include a public option is no reason to kill the bill.
(* I believe the union exemption is not yet part of the Senate bill, but a proposed fix in conference - not sure about its status in reconciliation fixes.)

3. “Unions are the greatest and can do no wrong!” - Unions provide a lot of important protections for their members, and collective bargaining gets better deals for workers. But unions also institute a hierarchy where pay rises with seniority, protect incompetent teachers/workers (Classrooms of Death), and have looked to better benefits in lieu of higher pay. Now that healthcare benefits may be taxed and at a flat rate rather than at the progressive income tax scales, these union-negotiated pay structures are looking really bad. This has apparently resulted in a sweetheart deal where union workers are exempted from the fee on healthcare benefits for a longer period than non-union workers, which makes everybody else angry. Remember, unions are a minority of households these days (just 12% of voters reported being part of a union as per the 2008 presidential election exit polls).

4. Finally, some liberals/progressives demand exactly the same purity tests as teabagging Republicans - “Alan Grayson for President, 2012!” These folks forget George McGovern's 1972 performance. Extremists – rather, public/outed extremists – rarely, if ever, win Presidential elections. And if you would rather lose a Presidency than compromise on ideology, just remember – SCOTUS appointments and other important priorities, like environmental protection, hang in the balance.

That's it for now. Your mileage will vary, for sure, and your comments are welcome – so long as they are civil and relevant to the content of this post. My moderation policy errs on the side of free speech.