Bad Timing, Joe

From: Joe Biden <>
Subject: A big misconception
Date: December 18, 2008 9:33:44 AM PST
To: Evan Goer

Evan —

A lot of people think the work of a campaign ends when
the election is over.

Well, not if you win.

In fact, folks are working around the clock to prepare
our team to hit the ground running on January 20th. At 
the same time, supporters all across the country are
busy defining the role this grassroots movement will play
in the administration.

It's a new and unprecedented set of challenges, and
Barack and I still need your support. I know we've asked
a lot of you recently -- but that's because we're
continuing to do things differently.

Past transition teams have taken donations from
corporations and lobbyists. Our team will not accept any
donations from Washington lobbyists, and individual
contributions will be limited to $5,000.

So while half of our funding comes from a government grant,
the second half is in your hands.

Will you make a donation of $250 or more to support the
presidential transition team?


Dear Joe,

You picked a really bad day to beg me for yet more money.

I suspect from now on, most days won’t be much better.

Best regards,


Life Is Sometimes Better Explained By Pink Laminated Cards

WASHINGTON, D.C. (Reuters) — Aided by the Democrats and Republicans, the Federal Reserve today launched an all-out assault on the main control arm of the Gnomes of Zurich. Over a hundred Megabucks evaporated from the world’s economy in mere minutes as the Dow Industrial Average plunged hundreds of points, New York was completely destroyed, and groups ranging from the International Cocaine Smugglers to the Boy Sprouts became uncontrolled.

Reports indicate that the attack was well-planned and well-coordinated by various shadowy organizations. According to spokesman Hans Lieber of The Bavarian Illuminati, “The situation had grown completely untenable. Hidden under mountains of complex financial derivatives, default credit swaps… we had no idea how the Gnomes were really doing. Although we took a serious financial hit aiding this attack, it was clear that had to act quickly and make the best of a bad situation.”

ADA-912 of The Network agreed. “Stochaistic models indicated that the Gnomes’s probability of victory was approaching 1 – epsilon. In this scenario, activating our Orbital Mind Control Lasers to assist in the assault was the only viable option.”

While initially there were some fears that The Discordian Society would sit out the attack, they eventually joined in as well. A representative of the Discordians that would only describe himself as “Peaches” stated, “At first we were like, ‘whoa, dudes, chill out, they don’t even have that many cards.’ But then we heard how the Gnomes probably just needed one more turn to get 150 Megabucks, and that they might even have a Slush Fund waiting to play. That just totally harshed our mellow.”

Not surprisingly, the Gnomes of Zurich have shed little light on how recent events have unfolded, let alone the current state of their finances. “This really sucks,” said Winky Beeblebrox, head financier and spokesgnome. “I go to the bathroom for five frickin’ minutes, and when I come back, these guys have completely gone behind my back and planned out a full attack. It’s not fair. Besides, the Bavarians are winning anyway. Fine, blow up the world’s economy, see if we care.”

As for the actual instigator of the attack, The Servants of Cthulhu had not issued a statement by the time this article went to press.

California Ballot Proposition Algorithm

It’s election time this Tuesday in California, and you know what that means. Yes, once again we have a raft of ideas so bad they couldn’t be shoved through the Legislature shiny new ballot propositions offered for our consideration.

Fortunately, I have painstakingly developed a straightforward algorithm for evaluating ballot propositions. It goes something like this:

Is the proposition related to water infrastructure?
  If yes, do my two friends who are professional water engineers support it?
    If yes, vote YES.
  Else vote NO.
Else vote NO.

A small caveat: Lobbyists are hip to the fact that Californians tend to vote NO on propositions all things being equal, and so sometimes they cleverly craft a proposition such that a NO vote actually implements the opposite of what the voters might think it does. So the algorithm only works if you first unscramble any Bizarro Ballot Propositions such that NO really means NO, not YES. Me am not understanding? You am not understanding? Good!

Anyway, let’s apply the algorithm. Since none of the propositions relate to water engineering, we fall through to NO on each one. What could be simpler?

But wait — we need to check our work. Let’s pretend for a moment that we don’t have access to this powerful algorithm, and actually look at these propositions one-by-one:

  • Prop. 91: Ensures that fuel taxes are spent on automobile infrastructure rather than public transportation infrastructure, thus helping maintain our state’s traditional massive subsidies of unsustainable transportation systems. For what it’s worth, this one was such a stinker that apparently its backers have bailed out. Analysis = NO. Algorithm = NO.
  • Prop. 92: Lowers community college fees from $20 to $15 per unit and fixes a particular minimum percentage of the state budget for community colleges. Frankly, $20/unit is a fantastic deal for two years of college education, and further subsidies are already available to low-income students. I might support an expansion of these subsidies, but not a general fee cap. What’s far more pernicious is that this is yet another proposition that locks in a certain percentage of expenditures to particular interest, making it even more impossible to actually produce a budget. Analysis = NO. Algorithm = NO.
  • Prop. 93: Reduces term limits to 12 years, but allows 12 years service in one house. My cousin grudgingly supports this one, but would rather see a limit like 30 years in the legislature. I’d rather see 30 years, too. I’d vote for that. I’d be even more excited about lifting term limits altogether — all we’ve done with term limits is trade our corrupt legislators for corrupt, stupid legislators. Anyway, as far as I’m concerned, Prop. 93 is tinkering around the margins of a dumb idea for no obviously good reason. Pathetic, go away, Analysis = NO. Algorithm = NO.
  • Prop. 94-97: Indian gaming propositions. If Superbowl ads are to be believed, if you vote YES, you’re fucking over Native Americans. And if you vote NO, you’re … fucking over Native Americans. What to do? As it turns out, these propositions are simply how Schwarzenegger is implementing his payback to certain tribes for backing him in the 2006 election. While it’s admirable that Schwarzenegger sees fit to deal so honestly with his political supporters, I see no particular reason that I should bother to help him out here. Analysis = NO, NO, NO, NO. Algorithm = NO, NO, NO, NO.

Uncanny! The algorithm works perfectly. Tune in next election, when we’ll find out whether the algorithm works on English as an Official State Language, or whatever dipshit thing they’re putting up there next time around.

Unhappy Predictions

The flu and some random colds are sweeping through the office. It’s like the plague hit. It’s so bad that on Friday, even I felt like I was getting the sniffles. Fortunately nothing came of it. I think this is how my ancestors managed to survive into the modern era. We weren’t even close to being the biggest or toughest or meanest SOBs around, but we did have a kick-ass immune system. Also we could sprint surprisingly fast when hard-pressed.

Of course, it goes without saying that whenever I start bragging about not getting sick, I get sick. As long as I keep my mouth shut, I can be fine for years. But this blog post has pretty much guaranteed that in short order, I’ll be deathly ill for at least a week.

For another dose of pre-Holiday cheer, I’m going to come right out and predict that the Republicans are going to maintain control of both the Senate and the House. I also predict much jawing by the pundits Wednesday about “the incredible last-minute Republican surge!” Somehow the polls were 3-4 sigma out again! Amazing!

Although the prospect of the Republicans winning again is awful enough, the thing that is orders of magnitude more horrifying is what that victory would prove, once and for all, about our electoral system. I really, really hope I’m wrong about this.

Update: Well, I must say, it has never felt so good to be so colossally wrong. I’m just glad I didn’t have a few hundred extra bucks burning a hole in my pocket, or I would have lost it all betting at

Back When Ballot Propositions were REAL Ballot Propositions

I miss the good old days of ballot propositions. Who could forget the rabbit punch of Proposition 187 coupled with the haymaker of electricity “deregulation”?1 Distract the electorate and chattering classes with a red meat issue, while sneaking in a hopelessly complex piece of legislation that nobody bothers to pay attention to. Ah, good times, good times.

Back in the good old days, we were ruled by Machiavellian masters, and we liked it! But now? Feh. After scanning today’s ballot propositions, it is clear that today’s political manipulators are mere shadows of the masters of old. This year’s batch of propositions is so… transparent. To paraphrase one of the great observers of the American political scene, “Scruffy. So morbid. A sentimental replica of a politics long since vanished. No style at all.”

Actually, a couple of the propositions might be good ideas if they weren’t so hopelessly, so laughably, so obviously crafted by one organization based in Washington to cripple the political power base of the other. It sounds fair for union workers to get to vote on where their unions distribute campaign donations — until you realize that A) unions already do this, and B) I don’t get to say fuck-all about the lobbying practices of my company. “Pardon me, Mr. Semel, those ten dollars of my salary you’re spending this year on Lobbyist #833251? I’d like it back please. Thanks.” The same goes for fairer redistricting. Taking redistricting out of the hands of the party in power sounds like a very fair idea in principle. That is, until you realize that for some strange reason, this “fairer redistricting” only applies to California and not say, every other state in the Union. Or at least Texas. Weird oversight by the sponsors, isn’t it? I’ve heard of taking a knife to a gunfight, but throwing away your knife on the way to the gunfight, that’s something else entirely.2

The only ray of sunshine this year was that we do see the old trick of, 1) consumer advocates throw in one bill, 2) industry throws in a couple of very similarly worded ones and, 3) wooo, now we got ourselves a proposition par-tay! Still, I remember years past when the one consumer insurance proposition was surrounded by — what, three industry-sponsored ones? Seven? I forget. Anyway, this year the ratio is a pathetic 1:1. It’s like they’re not even trying. I am Officially Depressed.

1. I have to use quotes around “deregulation” so as not to offend the tender sensibilities of those people who like to scream, “But that wasn’t electricity deregulation!!!111!one! You Californians just fucked it up with your… California-ness!” Much like unreconstructed Communists (just sub in “communism” and “Russians”), you have to throw these people a bone and back sllloooowly away.

2. Anyway, fairer redistricting has nothing to do with “retired judges” — go back to playing canasta and bocce ball, retired judges! No, it’s really just a simple math problem. Set ((perimeter squared) / (area)) to some pretty low number. And allow lines to be drawn into U.S.-owned waters in order to eliminate problems with jagged coastlines. Poof. Gerrymandering disappears. I would consider it my duty as a citizen to spearhead this proposition myself… except, well, duh.

Flotsam: The Most Important Political Commentator, Ever

Congratulations to Marissa! M’ris has finished her draft of Sampo, also known as the “Not the Moose Book”, also known as, “the one about Finnish mythology, vacuum-tube computing, and Cold War spies.” Ha, let’s see the reviewers try to slap the Harry Potter label on that one.[1]

Rachel reports that her husband Ben has enrolled full time in the University of Minnesota’s Food Sciences department. He now has labs such as the fudge lab and the angelfood cake lab. Clearly, we are all in the wrong professions. (“Now, titrate the cookie dough with chocolate morsels…”)

Russ calls our attention to… The Freezerator! Quite possible the best garage refrigerator, ever. Jeremy tries to rain on the parade a bit, pointing out that the Freezerator is “…truly the SUV of refrigerators. Anybody else take a look at the ‘Energy guide’? Comparable models span a range of 511-572kWh/year. This one comes in at 770kWh/year.” But that’s Jeremy for you — Mr. Liberal P. McLiberal who is also very liberal. Whatever, Jeremy.

I saw Primer last night. I think the 22-year-old version of myself could have untangled all the causality loops the first time around, but my current brain just couldn’t hold the whole thing together at once. Stupid rusty brain. I don’t feel too bad, though — I saw a couple of middle-aged gentlemen exiting the theater, gentlemen who fairly reeked of “Stanford physics professor”, and they looked pretty dazed too.

Finally, via Wonkette:

Jon Stewart to Crossfire and all other “debate” shows: “Stop, stop, stop, stop hurting America.” History will show that Jon Stewart was the greatest American political commentator of the early 21st century. No pundit on any op-ed page or on any television show comes close.

STEWART: I would love to see a debate show.

BEGALA: We’re 30 minutes in a 24-hour day where we have each side on, as best we can get them, and have them fight it out.

STEWART: No, no, no, no, that would be great. To do a debate would be great. But that’s like saying pro wrestling is a show about athletic competition.


CARLSON: Jon, Jon, Jon, I’m sorry. I think you’re a good comedian. I think your lectures are boring.


CARLSON: Let me ask you a question on the news.

STEWART: Now, this is theater. It’s obvious. How old are you?


CARLSON: Thirty-five.

STEWART: And you wear a bow tie.



CARLSON: Yes, I do. I do.

STEWART: So this is…

CARLSON: I know. I know. I know. You’re a…


STEWART: So this is theater.

CARLSON: Now, let me just…


CARLSON: Now, come on.

STEWART: Now, listen, I’m not suggesting that you’re not a smart guy, because those are not easy to tie.

Full video available.

1. Although there’s another school of thought that says that if reviewers aren’t trying to slap the Harry Potter label on Sampo, M’ris really ought to be firing her publicist.

2. Also, frist post with MarsEdit!!!1!! MarsEdit is the first Mac weblog editor I’ve ever thought was worth using. Nice work, Brent.

The End of Gerrymandering

What with the recent spectacle of Tom DeLay waltzing into Texas (in an off year) and breezily eliminating six or seven Democratic seats, coupled with the new enthusiasm for the Schwarzenegger-backed “fair redistricting“– I’ve been thinking about gerrymandering. A modest proposal:

For any proposed congressional district, take the perimeter squared and divide by the area. This number yields the district’s gerrymander number, G.[1] Now set a cap on G — say, for the sake of argument, 100.


Oh, and another thing — if I were King, “team” would be spelled T-E-I-M. Thank you very much.

1. For example, a circular district would have a G = 4pi, a square district would have a G = 16, a 4 x 1 rectangular district would have a G = 25, and so on.

So Many Choices!

So I’m looking through my official Voter Information Guide, and I have to say, I’m extremely disappointed that Libertarian Pat Wright, the ferret guy, is not running for governor. After some exhaustive research, I discovered the reason why: California has crushed his spirit.

I am no longer an advocate for ferret legalization. I don’t believe such freedom is a possibility in California.

I am ashamed of my state, and I am ashamed of my nation for invading and occupying Iraq (among other things). I do not believe the average person can have any impact on the government here in California or the USA. I further believe our state and nation are hopelessly corrupt.


Fortunately we still have many other fine candidates in the race. Consider Independent candidate Trek Thunder Kelly, who has what can only be described as the most kick-ass website of all the gubernatorial candidates. Kelly caught my attention in the Voter Guide with his statement, which I reprint in full:

Dear Voters, Please vote for me, thus breaking the Seventh Seal and incurring Armageddon. I will legalize drugs, gambling, and prostitution so that they may be taxed and regulated, the funds derived would subsidize the deficit, education, and the environment. I believe in peaceful resolutions backed by a strong military; I don’t care who you marry or have sex with.

Further investigation reveals that Kelly, a Venice Beach artist, is in his “blue period” (meaning that he currently wears nothing but blue). As for his diet: “I eat only tacos [tacos!!] and steak. I drink only water, salsa, and Cran-grape juice.” If you add bagels, egg salad, and pizza, that’s almost exactly my diet. Whoa. Oh, and beer at Poker Night. And by the way, continuing last entry’s theme concerning cheap drink, I have a confession to make: I’ve been drinking a heckuva lot of Coors Light at Poker Night these last couple of months. I know, I know. Call it my “Silver Bullet period”. I don’t know what it is, but there’s something about cheap, very cold, nearly flavorless beer that seems to suit Poker Night just fine. Besides, it’s a good thing to avoid the fancy-schmantzy beers every once in a while and get down to your roots. I remember a couple of years ago my friend Brian accused me of being “elitist yuppie slime” because I had never eaten a TV dinner in my life. This coming from a man who has a physics degree from Harvey Mudd, an MBA from Columbia, and is on record as wanting to be our nation’s first Asian-American Secretary of State. As you can tell, it kind of stung.

So back to Trek Thunder Kelly. While I approve of many of his policies, I’m not so sure about that Seventh Seal stuff. Now I’ll admit I’m not as up on this newfangled “New Testament” as I should be, but I do know that this Armageddon thingy doesn’t seem very pleasant. So we’ll give Kelly a pass. The other gubernatorial candidate of interest is Republican Rich Gosse, whose Voter Guide statement consists of the following:

Single adults are the Rodney Dangerfields of our society. They “can’t get no respect.” I am the first candidate in California history to campaign on a Fairness for Singles Platform. [Emphasis his] Visit my website for my views on reducing crime, solving the budget crisis, and improving education.

I just might have to vote Republican in this election, because Gosse is totally on the right track. Singles are the Rodney Dangerfields of our society. Take the sad story of the “Marriage Penalty” (please!) It used to be that some married couples paid fewer taxes than they would have if they were single, and some paid more. But then some politicians invented the concept of the Marriage Penalty, which clearly had to be eliminated in order to Protect The American Family. The upshot is that now the tax code ensures that a single taxpayer pays more than an equivalent married couple under nearly all circumstances. Sounds fair to me.

Of course the real problem is that everyone loves to drone on about protecting marriage and family values and whatnot, and meanwhile nobody is out there lobbying for Us. The Single People. You know, the hardworking folks who are out there buying electronic gadgets, going out to concerts and restaurants, swilling countless liters of booze, and basically keeping the damn economy afloat. Clearly we single people need a lobby of our own. And maybe a March on Washington. Sure, there was a Million Mom March, but I’ll take the Million Singles March any day. Seriously, after the march was over, whose post-March party would you want to go to?