Wednesday, October 29, 2008

McCain's Argument for today

Sen. McCain is back to bashing Sen. Obama about national security, with Bill Ayers back yet again in his speech, and the attempt to say that what Ayers did when Obama was 8 years old means Obama is a terrorist...or whatever twisted 'logic' McCain is hoping will stick with certain voters. But then he said something that caught my attention.

"The question is whether this is a man who has what it takes to protect America from Osama bin Laden, al-Qaida and the other great threats in the world," McCain said. "He has given no reason to answer in the affirmative."

He pointed out bin Laden and al Qaeda. Here is my thought: If it were up to Obama and his judgment, there is a pretty good chance we would not still be talking about bin Laden and al Qaaeda at all. It was Obama who did not want the Iraq distraction in the first place. Obama wanted to actually finish the job in Afghanistan, the true front in the war on terrorism. Had we put in the effort and resources into actually hunting down and killing off al Qaeda, the Taliban, and bin Laden when they were in our sights 6 years ago, we can only imagine where we would be as far as national security and the status of the U.S. in the world. I suspect it would be very different than what we have now.

Judgment, Sen. McCain, that is what this is about, and whst many people think Obama has when it comes to national security. At least we only have five more days of campaigning where we must listen to whatever new attacks McCain will throw out there, hoping to win on nothing more than fear and smear. He and his associates have gone through calling Obama a non-patriot, a terrorist, a socialist, a marxist, the usual 'tax and spend liberal' (even though his tax plan benefits 95% of American workers more than McCain's plan), someone who wants to bring back the welfare state (when has tax cuts been the same as welfare???), someone who wants to teach kindergardeners sex before reading, and so on. All of this is utter nonsense and/or things taking completely out of context. What new names McCain will come up with is anyone's guess, all of which is meant to stick in the back of undecided voters' minds when they enter the voting booth, hoping that fear wins out over true beliefs and, yes, the actual truth itself. I suppose it worked four years ago for W's re-election, so that is all the McCain camp has left as its argument for why he should be President.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Presidential Dance-off - Funny!

One of the funnier things I have seen recently can be found here. Check it out, and enjoy!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

McCain Has His Own Baggage When it Comes to Acquaintances with Shady Pasts

Unfortunately, the McCain campaign has stooped to levels McCain himself had pledged never to reach, which is for lack of a better term 'character assassination' of Barack Obama. This happens when campaigns have nothing left and are behind. Some times it works, some times it does not. But beware, if Sen. Obama is forced to respond in kind, I'll bet he has ads in the vault that are ready to go at a moment's notice. McCain has plenty of old acquaintances and even those he calls friends that he admires, such as G. Gordon Liddy and a number of right-wing evangelicals and preachers (I imagine this is why he has put Rev. Wright off limits in his ads) who have made numerous inflammatory comments over the years that most would say rival what Rev. Wright has said on a few occasions.

But there are others that are not as well known. Check here if interested in some of McCain's associations that rival Obama's relationship on educational boards with Bill Ayers. I wonder why the press has not picked up on these?

Cool Photos - Nikon Small World Photos

Nikon sponsors a contest each year for the best scientific photo contest for small phenomena or objects. Some truly beautiful and wondrous photos can be found on a Scientific American site. Check them out and enjoy.

Children Under 12 Generally Don't Learn From Mistakes, But Respond to Positive Feedback

The Drs. Eide have a short post from Science Daily showing results of fMRI studies on children who try to learn from mistakes and those who try to learn from positive feedback, as well as older teenagers and adults under the same circumstances. Teens and adults have had their brains mature and develop pathways to learn from mistakes that they have made. Younger children generally do not learn well from the mistakes they make - the brain does not develop the same pathways in order for this to occur. There are always exceptions because of the uniqueness of individual brain development, but many more children under the age of 12 do not learn effectively from mistakes and are prone to make the same mistake. Positive praise and feedback works best for most children. Negative feedback is not effective either, as some teachers and parents may get angry with those children who make the same mistakes, rather than praise them for progress in moving away from a particular mistake. Very interesting and important for the home and the classroom!

Gen. Colin Powell Endorses Obama

This just happened about an hour ago, but Gen. Colin Powell, former National Security Advisor and Chairman of The Joint Chiefs of Staff, Secretary of State during Bush's first term, a Republican, and long-time friend of John McCain, has given what may be the most eloquent and thoughtful reason to vote for Barack Obama as I have heard. On Meet the Press this morning, laid out his thinking and observations of both candidates, and gave very specific reasons why he is for Obama.

He stated his deep disappointment in how the GOP has been moving further to the right over the course of the campaign, and how the McCain campaign has continued to focus on what Powell believes to be insignificant issues and trying to make great stretches in truth and associations, such as the Bill Ayers issue (if McCain himself has called Ayers a "washed out terrorist," then why does he matter as an issue in a presidential campaign?), when those issues simply aren't part of the problems faced by America and by Americans. Powell is disappointed in McCain's daily changes to his message, and incosistency over many months. He is disappointed in the choice of Sarah Palin for veep, and that she is not ready to take over should something happen to McCain. This is not a typical campaign because of the numerous serious issues that need to be solved, and Gen. Powell wants all energy devoted to solving those issues; that will not happen with all the nonsense and inappropriate/false robocalls, etc., that McCain's campaign has resorted to.

He praised Obama for his intellectual curiosity and command of issues, his steadiness during the campaign and specifically the economic crisis we are in, and his trust in him to surround himself with experts of both parties for reaching his policy decisions, whether they are domestic of foreign policy/national security. Gen. Powell also strongly believes our international standing must improve, and that Obama is best suited for that, too.

See his endorsement for yourself.

McCain's Last Stand - Campaign of Fear

And now the final chapter of this election campaign - all out fear! Obama is a socialist! Obama will tax every citizen back to the Stone Age, just he will tax 'Joe the plumber' and ruin the American dream! (Anyone else sick of hearing that phrase, 'Joe the plumber' or is just me?) Obama is a terrorist! Obama kills babies! Obama is bringing down democracy itself! Obama is bringing back the black power era! Obama cares more about his campaign than a war! These, of course, are already out there and have all been statements of McCain himself or Palin, his running mate. (Interesting to note about Palin - when is the last time her campaign watchers allowed her to speak with the media on her own? She will be on the stump only, since her handlers are fearful of how she will be able to answer policy questions. Is this telling about her readiness to take over should something happen to McCain, who will still be the oldest person to take the office should he win? Her own campaign doesn't have confidence in her to handle the job, but still some flock to her)

And I am just waiting for this phrase to be uttered by McCain or Palin - We will be attacked by the evil-doers if Obama is in charge! Just wait, it will be said at some point if McCain is still down in the polls the last week of the campaign.

McCain and Palin's stump speeches are filled with these comments, and now the robocalls are out with completely deceitful and literally made-up charges against Obama. And McCain is still using charges he has brought up in all three debates that are blatantly not true, as confirmed by looking at Obama's campaign platform and countless checks by the media and even other Republicans (in fact, a number of high profile Republicans, including members of Congress such as Sen. Collins from Maine) who are in close races are asking for an end of the completely negative campaign of the person who once said something like, "mark my words, I will never go that rout, even if behind", because of the nonsense the Bush campaign laid on him in South Carolina in the 2000 primary race. McCain, time and time again, goes back on his word, back on his honor, and is simply a pure politician who will do anything and everything to be elected. But a good number of people buy into it.

Looking back from when the primaries began in both parties, who has been the most consistent candidate? I think it is clearly Sen. Obama. His message has not changed. His speeches and policies have not changed. All his opponents have ended up using his campaign slogans and philosophy, and have tried to mimic his unprecedented use of technology to build his vast grassroots foundation. He has tried to stay away entirely from negative ads, but has had to throw in some, which are based on policy differences or actual things his opponents have said, in the face of constant attacks by the other side. This is because the other sides have always been behind, and that is what trailing campaigns resort to.

I cannot help but reach the conclusion that McCain, who likes to think of himself as an honorable man, has lost that honor. He is beyond where he said he would ever go. Fact Check (on taxes for now, due to lack of time at the moment):

McCain's claims of raising taxes on everyone ("Watch your wallets" is his phrase nowadays) is utterly false, and anyone who has analyzed the tax plans will agree it is a made up charge, but that does not prevent McCain from scaring everyone in his ads and speeches and robocalls. It just ain't so.

- taxes: Obama gives a larger tax cut to 95% of working Americans than McCain. Only if net income is over $250000 will taxes go up. Why this policy? First, let's not forget that both candidates say they will raise spending because of the unprecedented number of major problems the nation faces. We are likely to have a deficit of between $800 billion and $1 trillion just this year. McCain wants to cut taxes on the wealthiest (he has never denied this) because his philosophy is trickle-down economics. That is where the difference lies between the two. The reason I support Obama's plan is that, with conditions as they stand right now, the middle class is in terrible economic shape. Personal debt is at historic highs on average, and savings rates are at historic lows on average. The average wages and take home income have been flat at best, and some studies show have declined when adjusted for inflation (largely due to gas and food price increases) over the past decade or so. With the additional economic collapse of global banking and lending systems, as well as the drop in personal wealth as home prices have declined sharply, everyone expects a terrible retail holiday season, more job cuts, and so on, as all this is linked together. The middle class, which is the engine that drives our economy with its spending, is not in a position to spend. If they do not spend, what business is going to be able to expand and create more jobs, as revenue and sales drop? By taking an approach to boost up the middle class, this will ultimately be good for everyone. Now the rich will still be rich, even after modest tax increases. That is simply a fact. But in order to offer tax cuts to help the rich become richer in the long-run (via higher middle class spending and purchasing), there is a good chance the super wealthy will do better long-term, even though they take a short-term hit. This is not without example, as it happened during the Clinton era. The history behind lowering taxes across the board, with increased spending, is record deficits and a hit on the economy long-term, as happened with Reagan and now Bush, and perhaps McCain if he wins.

By the way, Joe the plumber would do much better under Obama's tax plan than under McCain's. He makes far less than $250000. And Joe said the business would cost about $270000 to buy...but guess what, that would not be his take home pay if he were ever to make the purchase of the business. After expenses, payrolls, benefits for employees, and all the rest businesses are allowed to deduct on their tax returns, his take home pay would certainly be well under a quarter million dollars. He would not see one cent of a tax increase! He would likely see a tax break! This is why something like 98% of small businesses are not going to be affected by the Obama plan, and actually helped!! And with Obama's health care plan, there are further cost reductions and tax incentives for small businesses, which will likely be the biggest source of new jobs. Question for someone who knows: Is the definition of 'small business' one with less than one hundred employees?

Monday, October 13, 2008

The Contradictions of McCain's campaign

It seems that Sen. McCain cannot quite find a way to connect with average Americans during the last days of the campaign for President. He has yet another new stump speech, desperately trying to find any sort of message that will change the momentum of the race with Sen. Obama. First, neither he nor Sarah Palin have mentioned Obama's name or any reference to Bill Ayers the past two days. They realize that version of a stump speech and strategy was counterproductive and actually turned off some swing voters because the people want to hear what will be done for the economy, not personal attacks about things that happened a decade or more ago. Obama was smart to stay on the issues side, and rightly stated McCain simply wanted to divert voters' attention from the issues. Obama appeared more concerned for the average American, and he appeared more presidential staying away from character assassination.

So now McCain is back to issues supposedly, but that may be a war he cannot win at this late date. This past week of trying to bring Obama down instead of raising himself up could have been the last bit of precious time McCain had, and ended up wasting it. McCain is only adding on to the view he is erratic, with no clear strategy or message in a crisis situation that requires leadership, not speeches given after polling data is available. Contradictions galore now have enveloped the McCain campaign.

He was a major force for deregulation for decades. Now in the heat of the campaign and down in the polls, he wants us to believe he is a lifelong fighter for regulation and oversight. He was running on experience, but when that became inconvenient with the economic collapse, he is now a fight for change. He puts country first as a slogan, but chooses a running mate that was clearly a campaign first action. Just days before the crash of the market, he said the fundamentals of the economy are strong - The next day he says things are a disaster. He wanted an honorable, issues campaign, and we saw what that turned out to be in the past two weeks. He continues, even today, to insist Obama is simply going to tax us back to the stone-age, when Americans have paid attention and know that is an utter lie; Obama will give tax relief to 95% of taxpayers and also proposes a bigger tax cut than the McCain plan. He suspended his campaign to work in Washington (on committees he was not a member of...), then came back and said things would pass when suddenly that evening his Republican friends in the House did not pass the bailout; should a President not be able to handle multiple issues and crises at a time? Obama looked strong by staying engaged via technology, working Democrats to vote for the bailout plan, while still campaigning, and came in when appropriate and helped get the deal done. And Sarah Palin's line today was,

"There's anger about the insider dealing of lobbyists. Anger about the greed on Wall Street. Anger about the arrogance of the Washington elite,"

She is correct about the anger. But consider this: McCain's elite campaign staff is almost entirely made up of lobbyists (some 60 throughout the campaign), while Obama does not have any paid lobbyists. Greed on Wall Street was able to flourish in part because of the deregulation McCain has advocated and supported for decades. Is not a senator who has been in Washington for 26 years not part of the definition of Washington elite? I am not sure this is a good line to use since it works against Palin's own party candidate.

We'll see if his latest 'plan' and speech does anything, but with all the contradictions I will predict not. Next week, or perhaps sooner, we are likely to hear an entirely new message and plan. Americans are apparently seeing through all the pandering and desperation, which has been helping Obama.

Early Voting Begins Today!

For those former students who log in from time to time, keep in mind that early voting begins today in Illinois, and it has already begun in a number of other states. Please make sure to vote, regardless of who you are supporting, for this is how our voices are heard. Many have died to give us this right, and it is our responsibility to do so as citizens. Encourage friends in person, over the phone, through email and text messages, through Facebook and other online options, but keep in mind you can be difference makers in this election if your age-group turns out in force. Your future is at stake with the major problems (economic, climate change, energy, security) we face, so do not take this election lightly or for granted, because it will likely be close. Thanks, and stay in touch!!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Two Unknowns for the Election

Polling suggests that Sen. Obama has been building statistically significant leads in national polls of likely voters, as well as in a growing number of state polls. One fear among his supporters is that there will be a "Bradley effect" in this election, in reference to Tom Bradley's run for California governor. Bradley, an African-American, was up significantly in opinion polls right up to the election, and ended up losing the election. Other races between a white and non-white candidate show similar drops in actual votes compared to opinion polls. Will this be the case this year? No one can answer that question except the voters. Because of the economic mess countless American families find themselves in, if people truly feel better with Obama in control rather than McCain, will that trump any racial bias they may have for Obama? No one knows.

But one other aspect of the race that is not being talked about as much is the turnout of younger voters. The 18-28 block of voters is notoriously absent in elections. This is a group of voters that overwhelmingly support Obama. Typically these are voters who are newly registered, have never voted before, and therefore do not come up on 'likely voter' lists that are in turn used for polling purposes. There are literally multiple millions of new voters in this election, which are Democratic by something like a 4:1 margin. If they actually do turn out in large numbers, and economic conditions trump racial bias, the election will be won by Obama. If they turn out in the usual percentages (in the 25% range, for example), and there is a real racial factor, it is more of a toss-up. If there is a large turnout of young voters and a Bradley effect in the electorate, my best guess is that they cancel each other out more or less, and Obama would end up being the winner. Besides some unforeseeable event that will change the dynamics of the election, these two factors are the two unknowns that will determine the results in this historic election.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Palin Reportedly Abused Power as Governor

The bipartisan panel in Alaska has apparently found Gov. Palin unlawfully used her power to try and have a state trooper fired. Known as "Troopergate," the panel, which originally was formed by fellow Republicans, came out with its initial findings tonight. The governor has built herself up as a self-proclaimed 'reformer' and 'maverick' and one who wants to clean up Washington. I was never too sure about all those claims, and perhaps McCain will look back and wish he had actually done a bit of vetting before making his decision. It will be interesting to see how the McCain spin machine tries to wiggle out of this one over the next day or two, for it just came out.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Some Thoughts About How to Teach Science

There is a very good, thought provoking post on Phil Long's blog (from MIT and U. of Queensland). It is based on the Carl Wieman lecture and his thoughts on new research that should be guiding science teachers at all levels. Carl Wieman was a co-winner of the 2001 Nobel Prize in physics, for his work on Bose-Einstein condensation.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

A Campaign Not for the Weak Hearted

The McCain campaign has actually admitted today that they are "taking off the gloves" in the presidential campaign. This is entirely predictable and expected, as McCain has run one of the more negative campaigns in recent memory. He has tried everything he can think of to keep media attention off of issues and policy positions, as he is aware he cannot win the election if it is in fact based on what each candidate wants to do for the country. It is yet one more admission that the campaign slogan of "Country first" is a front for "Campaign first."

Sarah Palin is now the attack dog, bringing up the Bil Ayers issue against Barack Obama at fundraisers and campaign stops today. The quote that Obama is "palling around with terrorists" is going to be but one more daily attempt to slow the Obama momentum. Some how they want the public to buy into something that has been out there since the days when Obama ran for the Senate, and anyone who has looked into the matter, which includes numerous papers, reporters, and opponents/political enemies have concluded there is no such thing as the 'buddy-buddy' relationship McCain and Palin will try to paint. The latest investigation into the matter was the New York Times, which concluded there is no close relationship at all. Obama was 8 years old when Ayers was a member of the radical Weather Underground, an anti-war group that did in fact act out bombings at government locations. While as despicable as Ayers' actions were, Ayers happened to move on and become a professor of education and has been active in Chicago Public School reform movements, such as small schools. This is how Obama and Ayers met, as they served on some of the same boards/committees when Obama moved to Chicago and worked in the community. The numerous investigations looking for close, personal and friendly relationships have concluded that there were none...McCain will try to use guilt through association to tilt the public towards away from Obama. Obama has never expressed any support for Ayers actions decades ago when the two did not even know each other, has denounced what Ayers did in his earlier life, has never had a friendship with him, and certainly has never used Ayers as an adviser, which I am sure McCain will try to state, though false. I can only imagine McCain and his allies will next bring up Rev. Jeremiah Wright. I would have to believe there are a number of ads from left-wing groups just waiting to bring out all of McCain's associations and skeletons over the last three decades, such as the Keating five and numerous radical right-wing preachers with whom McCain has been associated (and who believe, among other things, AIDS is God's way of getting homosexuals, etc), as well as a series of almost daily flip flops on the state of the economy and other issues. Does he really want to go there? Apparently so.

If McCain wants to continue this path as the thrust of his campaign, so be it. Obama will continue to address the problems that need to be solved, and keep plugging away on what he wants to do to solve them. He will continue to take the lead in appearing presidential rather than blatantly desperate, as McCain will, or at least should, appear. Is this what Americans want during the campaign, during a time when I suspect the vast majority of voters don't want their future leaders playing in the mud while they are on the verge of losing their homes, retirement savings, and health insurance? Give me a break, McCain. And one last thing...can someone please remind Sarah Palin she is running to be the Vice President of the United States, and not the vice president of the high school student council? I am personally so entirely sick of the 'folksy' and 'cute' commentary on her debate performance, where she consistently spewed out gibberish instead of talking about anything that resembled actual answers to the questions or any hint of detail in policy positions. And I cannot imagine, should she, God forbid, ever be President, that sitting across the table from a Vladimir Putin discussing nuclear proliferation and national security issues, that winking and saying that she looks forward to working 'wit cha' and being cute are going to win over any amount of respect. This is a serious job, 'doggone it,' and I'd like her to at least act like she understands that. She should also brush up on her high school civics so she understands the veep is only allowed to vote in the Senate to break a tie.